Here’s why It’s Not All Bad Being A Night Owl.

You’ve heard the propaganda, one annoyingly oft heard statement being, “The early bird gets the worm”. Put out there to make you feel super bad about not being able to go to bed before 4AM. The first time – and only time – I found this saying to be true was when it was told to me by a big, burly bouncer who spared me a smile and word of wisdom as I waited for a club to open, eager to party late into the night.

“[Us] ‘late to bed’, ‘late to risers’ get a lot of slack and negativity..”

Which is funny, because that is pretty explanatory of who I am as a person. Not early for parties- but the ‘late into the night’ part. As far as I can remember, after school, and when the weekends would allow it during school, I did many things late into the night. I spent a lot of time doing nothing too- late into the night. I have accepted that I am just a ‘night person’ and optimally function only – you guessed it- ‘late into the night’.

And as a night person I feel us ‘late to bed’, ‘late to risers’ get a lot of slack and negativity when it comes to our tendency to sleep little, too much or not at all. I detest mornings and morning people- the worst way for someone to  wake me up is with a smile. My loved ones know that you shouldn’t even attempt to talk to me if I haven’t had coffee yet.

“..there are 3 types of people- larks, owls and hummingbirds (the inbetweeners).”

And I know I’m not alone. But eventually I had to succumb to the 9-5 – although I kept myself afloat while avoiding these sort of working hours for a good while. And we all may have to, so may as well work on understanding why we are the way we are, and why – in that morning traffic- it might not be as bad as it feels.

Says Frederick Brown, a professor of psychology at Penn State,”People span the range of those who are very early risers to very late setters, and this is genetically determined.” The human brain and thereby body works on an estimated 24 hour cycle called circadian rhythms.

Morning people (let’s call them larks) have clocks that are shorter than 24 hours, while night people (let’s call them owls) have clocks that extend over 24 hours. These distinctions between body clocks put people in what scientists call ‘chronotypes’. Basically there are 3 types of people- larks, owls and hummingbirds (the inbetweeners). Most people will go between the 3 types throughout their lives, with very few falling distinctly on either side.

“[Larks] are more conscientious. They get better grades. They’re just nicer, you know.”

Back to the aforementioned early riser propaganda: the media will tell you that larks are notoriously happier. This could be for many reasons, one big one being that society’s clock lines up with theirs. The disconnect between society’s clock and that of an owl is a huge factor and is referred to as ‘social jetlag’. Larks have no problem fitting in, waking up at the right time, sleeping at the right time, eating at the right time. Larks are more likely to be slim, due to all the good sleep (pfft) that they get. They are more conscientious. They get better grades. They’re just nicer, you know.

But this article is not about them. It’s about us- yay! ( could narcissism be an associated trait of owls? See below*..)

Night owls are more..


A psychological study tested 420 participants chronotypes and then gave them intelligence tests- the tests measured vocational knowledge ( mechanics and engineering), general math and reading comprehension, as well as working memory and processing speed.

Owls came out with significantly higher scores when pertaining to the intelligence measures but had slight differences when pertaining to working memory and processing speed.

This was true even when owls took the test in the morning. Boom.


According to a study by  Christoph Randler of University of Education Heidelberg, Germany, owls had more sexual partners in total. Randler tested 284 male participants’ chronotype and their sexual behaviour. This was true even when the study controlled for factors like age, extraversion, and a tendency to stay out later.

No surprise though, that owls were also more likely to cheat.


A small study by Marina Giampietro of Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, found that owls are better at creative problem solving. Another showed owls outperform larks on drawing-based tests. Marina thinks this could be that a “non-conventional spirit” is more likely to have evolved from the general sleeping patterns of our ancestors. A study by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary scientist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, showed that people who have evolved from this type of sleeping pattern are generally “more progressive”. These traits are associated with creative thinkers and artistically inclined people.


Contrary to the popular phrase, attributed to Ben Franklin, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”, there is no difference between owls and larks in these 3 regards.

According to Fast Code, a study by epidemiologists at Southampton University in England, surveyed “356 larks in the group (in bed before 11 p.m., up before 8 a.m.) and 318 owls (in bed after 11, up after 8).” They tested health and cognitive differences as well as income and found that “If anything, owls were wealthier than larks, though there was no difference in their health or wisdom.”

One thing we can all agree on is perhaps that society should be more accepting of either sleep cycle. Adam Hadhazy of Live Science agrees that one’s biological preference and tendency to be more proactive at differing hours should not be considered ‘bad or unhealthy’.

“Society.. should be more accepting of inherent sleep-and-wake modes, particularly of night owls, for whom adhering to standard business hours is arduous.”


*Yes, owls are more likely to posses the ‘Dark Triad’ traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy, because our ancestors were more likely to get away with nefarious deeds when it was dark outside. 😉  


By Zoya Pon.

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