Did you ever wonder why you can’t function in the morning as well as you would past five in the afternoon? Have you ever asked why your friends were able to get up earlier than five o’clock without trouble while you drag yourself out of bed two hours later?
If you're someone who takes a few snoozes off your alarm clock, chances are you're a “night owl”, a term used for late-night sleepers who find it hard to wake early in the morning. On the other hand, if you can easily jump off the bed just before the sun hits the sky, you might be a “lark” – an early riser with a regular sleeping pattern. These two terms were derived from one's chronotype, a biological trait which indicates how you perform at different times of the day.
But what's so special about your sleeping patterns? Well, after several types of research, scientists have surprisingly come up with results that define the chronotypes’ physical, emotional and intellectual aptitude.
Sophie in the RADICE Silk Pyjama
What makes an early riser and a night owl? Is it time preference? Well, according to HuffPost, these sleep-and-wake tendencies may be driven by genetic forces. Your chronotype can be linked to genetic variations passed down to you from your parents. Even if they're not late-night sleepers, someone in the family surely was! A few other factors: lifestyle, cognitive function, and even mood disposition.
Scientists have looked into a new angle: different chronotypes may have different brain structures. The researchers at Aachen University, Germany have conducted an experiment between the chronotypes of the extreme ends of the spectrum. Among the 59 men and women who participated in the study, 16 were morning people, 23 were late-sleepers, and 20 were intermediate. According to the results, night-owls have greater integrity of white matter in the brain.
What's a white matter? It's the fatty tissue in the brain that transmits communication among nerve cells. Too less of white matter means disruption to the human cognitive function. As we grow older, our white matter depletes, which is why some of us tend to be more forgetful. That may sound like a plus point for night-owls, but one of the reason they have greater white matter is because of what scientists call a “social jet lag,” which is caused by the odd times of their sleeping and waking.
The wrong side of the clock
Health-wise, some say that the early birds are at better advantage because they get longer sleep compared to the night owls. This may not be true. In a news reported by NBC, more than 400,000 people were surveyed to take part in a study of genes and health. Included in the questionnaire is whether they are night owls or early birds. There was a great gap between the two extremes, revealed the study; night owls had a 10% risk of dying over 6-and-a-half years. And no, it's not about lack of sleep.
Both groups can get the same amount of snooze, only in different hours. The problem here is that the night owl keeps up with a world built for early birds. According to the scientists, our bodies expect us to perform something at a certain time, such as eating breakfast and taking breaks. When we are not doing it in the right time, our body's physiology may be thrown off-balance.
Our body clock adapts to the 24-hour daily cycle, attuned to the rising and the setting of the sun. Eveningness goes against the natural flow of nature, which then triggers a misalignment between social activities and their own body clocks. This may sound like a good invitation to become an early riser, but is your body built to rise in normal hours?
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As we weigh each chronotype’s pros and cons, let’s put them head to head, shall we?
Early morning risers are healthier. The famous adage, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise," may ultimately be true, especially for the larks. Morning types are more likely to eat better breakfasts and benefit from the sun, which is a natural stimulant for waking up – aside from its Vitamin D-rich light. With a sleeping routine that is perfectly in-tune with the body's slumber cycle, larks get fully restored, ready for the day's work.
Morning types are more agreeable too. When it comes to personality, larks get a high score when it comes to cooperation, proactivity, and persistence. Thanks to a healthy kickstart (as mentioned previously), early risers tend to have better moods and procrastinate less. As a result, this chronotype is shown to be happier and more sociable, always moving forward in their workplace. Thus, there's no surprise that they also tend to be better leaders.
Night owls might be smarter. They might have missed half the day, but don't belittle late-sleepers; their intelligence and creativity rank a shot higher than normal. This might be credited to the quiet, evening atmosphere; it gives inquisitive minds enough leeway to wander and ponder. With no papers fluttering, no hustling, no bustling, night owls manage to squeeze all their intelligent juices, displaying strength in inductive reasoning and academic performance.
Evening types get a lot more things done, too. Night owls remain mentally alert for a longer period of time, are burdened with less stress, and stay relatively calm all throughout the day. This maybe because they are more inclined to take afternoon naps. They might not have the usual adrenaline rush early risers have, but night owls manage to handle even heavy workloads without the fear of losing it. Confident, brilliant and smart, one can trust this chronotype to get things done even in the nick of time.
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Morning types are more practical, evening types are more innovative. But don’t get it wrong; despite their differences, both chronotypes are creative in their fields. Your sleeping type may affect your overall experience throughout the day, but that doesn’t mean you are lesser than the other. Whether you stay up all night or you’re up and ready for the morning, there are many ways to be productive, just as long as you get your essential Zzz’s.