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!