At least, that’s what Fiona Macrae from Mail Online concludes from a new study by the University of Liège. Led by Christina Schmidt, the team studied homeostatic and circadian processes, which “operate to maintain the quality of our waking hours and of our cognitive performance during a normal day,” to “better understand the cerebral bases of these regulatory mechanisms and the ways in which they interact.”
In plain English, that means they wanted to find out how our brains work throughout the day and whether or not being a morning person (a lark) or night person (an owl) made a difference.
The answer: Yes. And now we know exactly how it makes a difference.
If both a lark and an owl (to use their parlance) have been awake for 1.5 hours, both will perform equally well on tests. But if both have been awake for 10.5 hours, larks will be feeling tired while owls will actually feel slightly more energetic.
That’s right, you morning people! That burst of energy us night people get more than compensates for our sluggish starts in the morning. Overall, we are more productive than you. Boo-yah!
And to think that I’ve been thinking about shifting my rhythm to become a morning person (if that’s even possible). Forget that. Maybe the saying should be this instead:
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man poor, unsure and full of tired sighs.”
However, one of the supervisors of the study, Philippe Peigneux, was quoted in National Geographic News as saying, “morning types may be at an advantage, because their schedule is fitting better with the usual work schedule of the society. It may represent a problem for evening types obliged to wake up early while having difficulties going to bed in the evening, eventually leading to a sleep debt.”
In my line of work, I need to be up when my clients are up. And if my clients are up at 6:00 AM, then I have to be too. C’est la vie.
But wait, what about the claim that owls are smarter and richer than larks? Is that true? In addition to the aforementioned article by Macrae, Leon Kreitzman of the NY Times mentions in passing, “If anything, owls were wealthier than larks, though there was no difference in their health or wisdom.”
Strike one for being smarter. It isn’t concrete data on owls being richer either. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any more information to substantiate the claim, as much as I’d like it to be true.
I did find this interesting information though:
Owls may be more creative than larks, according to a study cited by Discovery News in 2006
- The percentage breakdown of the population is roughly:
- 10% larks
- 20% owls
- 70% hummingbirds – people who bounce back & forth between mornings & nights
There is no evidence that larks have a socioeconomic, cognitive, or health advantage, according to a study done in 1998. They didn’t examine the opposite though: whether owls have such advantages or not.
Oh well. Whether or not being an owl makes me smarter or richer, one thing’s for certain – I definitely get into the flow later in the evening and am sluggish in the mornings. If I’m just as productive as a morning person after having a chance to wake up, then that’s totally awesome.
Also, I ought to play Texas Hold ’em with larks in the evening, after we’ve all been awake for about 10.5 hours. Let’s see how well you play then, morning people! Boo-yah!