Some swear they peak at work early in the morning and push for an early start at office. Night Owls swear their minds work best at night. Is there any scientific truth in these claims?
The Early Starter Gets The Worms?
The idea that early risers are a virtuous lot goes a long way back to the period of Aristotle who noted, “rising before daylight is commendable; it is a healthy habit.” Later, Benjamin Franklin reworded it into “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” which we all learnt, remember and some practice.
Rather recently, there has been calls to start the official day early, make conference calls early & be part of breakfast meetings more than at lunch. This also means to push Twitter & facebook to the later part of the day and reserve the forenoon to get “the real things done.” This recent push towards early rising had its origins in a research paper published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology which suggests that humans become more passive as the day wears on. It also puts forth the idea to go for the most important thing first thing in the morning as you might not as competent to face the task later in the day.
Circardian VS Chronotype
Another research along similar lines by Maryam & Issac Smith that was published in an issue of Psychological Science caught the attention of Dr. Sunita Sah, a behavioral scientist at Georgetown University, who also happened to be a professed night owl. She had also been studying how different times of the day and different situations influenced ethical behavior.
Being a Physician herself, she also found it plausible that something with such profound health consequence as the Time of the Day, it also might have a moral dimension and wondered how strong the effect might be. She and her colleagues set about testing the limits of the latest findings by looking at the underlying biology.
It is a known fact that our sleep patterns are influenced by the circardian rhythms, which is our bodies response to light and dark in a typical day. The circardian rhythm varies for each person, which is why our energy peaks at moments that might be different from another person. There is an ebb and flow of this energy that is unique to each person and this is what decides each individual Chronotype – whether we are morning people, night people or somewhere inbetween. Each chronotype remains stable, though they have been known to shift with age.
Whats your Chronotype?
Children and older adults generally prefer mornings: adolescents and young adults prefer evenings. How to find your own chronotype? Spend a few weeks going to bed when you feel tired and waking up when you feel like it, instead of waking to an alarm clock. By the end of the second week you will find a pattern emerging with which you can determine your chronotype.
In morning people, sleep drive and chronotype tend to be aligned. Their internal clocks are pretty well synchronized with their over-all energy levels. As for night owls, things are a bit more complicated. When its morning and the sun comes up, the light resets their circardian clocks, telling them to wake up. But being chronotypically night owls, they lack energy to wake up into the morning and would like to go back to sleep.
This process reverses itself in the night with one system telling them to sleep and another forcing them to remain awake. Though chronotype doesn’t control wakefulness on its own, the longer we are awake, irrespective of our established circardian rhythms, only more fatigue exerts its pressure on us.
Finally, it is ultimately the best policy to understand and embrace your chronotype because Sah says it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible to overcome your predisposition and train yourself to function better at times that don’t match up with your inner clock. So it is neither right or wrong if you are a early bird or a night owl – anyway it is best to operate and get things done when your energy levels peak, night or day!