The early bird may catcheth the worm, but the night owl gets the meatilicious mousy!

I talk about my bed a lot. It’s my favourite place to be – it’s warm (I hate to be cold), it’s comfy, I can read in it and (most importantly) sleep in it… Yet I find getting there at night an arduous task. I’ve never been able to work out why that is.

I’m a night owl. I love nothing more than lying in in the morning, and can quite happily (and alertly) stay up til the small hours. Going to bed – to sleep – in the evenings is not something that comes easily to me – my mind races and ideas bounce around like ping pong balls, I suddenly come up with solutions to problems that have been bugging me all day and I’m at my most creative.

The stereotypical night owl is a lazy layabout, sleeping til noon, gaming til 3am, showering every other day and living in squalor… but that’s not strictly who I am. To begin with, I’m not a gamer. (That said, I am the other stereotype, the one who stays up til 3am rewatching my various Joss Whedon DVDs or House.) I shower before work every morning and wash up my dishes every night.

But most importantly, it’s simply not fair to label me lazy. If I have a lot to do, I get a lot done, and if I don’t I find other ways to occupy my time. I’m most likely to stick on one more episode of Firefly at 2am because I’m halfway through a blog post or crafting project – these DVD series are background noise to me, with scripts and storylines I know so thoroughly that I can see them playing out in front of me without actually having to look at the screen, and if you catch me watching TV WITHOUT something occupying my hands I’m either ill or wallowing in self-loathing. I get an awful lot of productivity out of the 24 hours in my day – even the ones when I sleep til gone eleven and don’t get dressed until two. The lazy label I am so often attributed is a major bugbear of mine.

So, you can imagine how vindicated I felt when I saw a link to a research article stating that tests had proven that night owls have more stamina than early birds. Which means that, while they often seem less conscientious than their early-rising counterparts, night owls can work at the height of their intelligence quota for longer lengths of time. This set me googling to see what other differences our natural sleep patterns make to our personalities and life chances.

Overall, night owls scored higher for intelligence (yay!) but also for likelihood of depression (boo). On the other hand, early birds are more likely to succeed in our standard workplace (wooo) but also likely to be less socially confident (bummer). Night owls are likely to be more successful working for themselves, on their own timetable, and therefore often make successful entrpreneurs.

Early birds are likely to be early birds for life, however, while night owls may change their circadian rhythm through a mixture of hormonal changes (ageing and child-bearing = biological) and their daily lifestyle patterns (work schedules and parenting = environmental), to become early risers over time.

So, the next time you early birds are tempted to ask that yawning colleague who always rolls in sleepy-eyed on the dot of 9am whether you’re “keeping them up” in their 10am meeting (to which the tempting answer is “no, you’re screwing with my rhythms you beast!”) just keep your mouth shut. By lunch time they’ll be up to speed, by 3pm they’ll be working at twice your capacity and by the time you’re ready for bed they’ll be elbow deep in their extra-curricular projects, brain cogs a-whirring and energy levels peaking. Take your worm and be satisfied – we owls are off in search of something more substantial!

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7 thoughts on “The early bird may catcheth the worm, but the night owl gets the meatilicious mousy!

  1. Well I have to say I agree with you and for the most part, I am very similar except I am not nearly as productive as you – I need to rethink how I organise my craft area since I waste too much time in front of the TV without doing anything else. I feel lazy a lot of the time (mainly because I don’t like doing housework) and yet I do have a lot of interests and am busy so I suppose lazy is not the right word for me. ‘Selective’ would probably be better!

    • You’re kidding me – you get loads done! Your quilting projects, odds and ends like your cushion cover, not to mention all the admin for SMB – you’re a busy bee too! Definitely not lazy though! šŸ˜€

  2. Speaking as the clearly odd-one-out earlybird here, I just wanted to take issue with the point about night owls making better entrepreneurs.

    Just because I happen to enjoy getting up at 6am doesn’t mean that I’m not flexible or have any of the other qualities that define an entrepreneur. You can just as easily cultivate the same habits early in the morning while most sane people are asleep as you can late at night … you can write a business plan over tea and toast, and calculate and plan your day or come up with solutions to problems during an early morning walk.

    It’s not the times we choose to be awake but what we do with the time we have. I choose to get up early because I have SAD and find the extra time in the sunshine (or drizzle) is actually beneficial to my health and sets me up with that bit more energy in the mornings and time to get things done and organised beforeI get distracted by other people and I feel too tired in the evenings.

    I must admit that I tend to find sweeping generalisations quite offensive because they do (by their very nature) neglect to take into accounts people’s needs or reasons for behaving as they do.

    It’s one of the reasons I’m all for flexible working, as I think it’s important that people are allowed to take advantage of habits and systems that they know work for them so that they can can work to their highest standards – and if that means they get more done for 6 hours in the middle of the night than in a standard 8 hour day, then go ahead and do it!

    Okay, will get off the soapbox now. (Sorry)

    • No need to apologise – you know I like to provoke debate! šŸ˜€

      As you say, sweeping generalisations are extremely offensive – hence my defending myself against the “lazy” label. I think the idea that night owls make good entrepreneurs has to do with the fact that they are highly motivated to escape a system that fails to take their natural patterns into account – you’re driven to succeed by ambition, which is just a strong and successful a force (in some cases more so – again, not to generalise).

      Flexible working is most definitely the way forward. As a night owl it is highly frustrating for me to fit myself into the 9-5 day – starting groggy and slow, and effectively not getting anything productive done until almost lunchtime. By which point I’ve lost half the day and am in a bad routine – any big projects get put off until morning. I am a smart, efficient worker and good at my job – but the system fails me.

  3. Hi Caroline,

    I’ve been following your lovely blog for ages and yet this is the first time I’ve left a comment – I’m a shy lurker :). I love your writing and like you, love clothes, cooking/baking and thrift shopping. I have to say I used to be a night owl for ages (couldn’t imagine eating dinner before 10 pm! shock, horror!) until the kids came along. Now my youngest is 6 and I’m a total early bird! I am fast asleep by 10 most nights and am up by 5 or 6! Where did that night owl in me go? Unbelievable!

    GG

    • Hi GG,

      So glad you decided to comment – welcome along!

      You’d be a prime example of how hormonal and environmental changes affect your patterns. I’m seriously hoping that, assuming I’m lucky enough to have children, the hormonal changes will change my circadian patterns entirely. Otherwise I’m likely to find myself extraordinarily tired a lot of the time!! šŸ˜€

  4. Ooh ooh!!! Add me to the list of night owls. I also happen to own my own business, so I’ve got that going for me as well. I will say that having children does throw a wrench into my normal rhythms. There is nothing like a 3 year old announcing the sunrise and saying it is wake up time! Luckily, I can be “lazy” in the morning when he is up eating breakfast, playing, etc…while I drag around getting ready for my day.

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