Research shows that morning people, or “Larks,” really do differ from night people, or “Owls.” About 40% of people are Larks, about 30% are Owls, and the rest fit somewhere in between. True morning people and night people—the two chronotypes as measured by their sleep midpoint—find that they tend to be more productive and energetic at different points in the day.
I’m a Lark: I go to sleep and wake on the early side. Owls do just the opposite. I used to believe that Owls could become Larks if they made an effort to go to sleep earlier, but research suggests that this attribute is hardwired. Genes play a big role, as does age: young children tend to be Larkish; adolescents tend to be Owls (with a peak at age 19.5 for women and age 21 for men); older adults tend to be Larks.
Interestingly, research suggests that Larks are likely to be happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life than Owls—in part, because the world favors Larks. Owls fall asleep later than Larks do, and because work, school, and young children start early, Owls get less sleep, which makes their lives harder.
The world is full of people who claim their success is due to their early rising, and who give tips for making yourself a “morning person,” but true differences do exist.
Instead of trying to change our natures, we should try to change our situation and surroundings to suit us—whenever possible.
Larks, Owls, and everyone in between should consider that aspect of their nature when trying to shape a habit. An Owl probably shouldn’t bother trying to form the habit of getting up early to study, and a Lark shouldn’t try to fit in two hours of writing after dinner. If you’re planning when to exercise, when to do creative work, or when to take it easy, knowing your chronotype can help you set yourself up for success.
It’s important, too, to remember that everyone is different. If you’re scheduling an important brainstorming meeting, don’t assume that everyone on the team, like you, is at their most energetic and creative at 8:30 a.m. The group might be much more productive at a 10:30 meeting.
Sometimes we may not recognize our own type. A friend told me, “I went on a meditation retreat, where we woke up at four. It was like a switch flipped for me, and my life became so much better. Now I go to bed around 9:00 or 9:30, and I wake up at 4:00. I love it.”
Are you a Lark, Owl, or somewhere in between?