Are you someone who springs out of bed every morning after a well-rested sleep? Or are you a grumpy cat who curses the alarm clock and struggles to drag yourself out of bed? If it’s 2 AM and you’re at your highest, binge-watching shows or finishing tasks, then you’re probably a night owl. Morning larks, on the other hand, find mornings to be their best time to function and fall asleep much earlier in the night.
Bedtime routines do not determine whether someone’s a morning lark or a night owl. But is this a habit you form or is it innate? Can you make use of knowing your sleep cycle? And which is better, to be a morning lark or a night owl?
Are these classifications real?
Human beings have a circadian cycle or circadian rhythm. This regulates regular body functions including one’s sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythms can vary from early chronotypes to very late chronotypes, resulting in behavioural patterns of ‘larks’ and ‘owls’ respectively. People of the early chronotype are active during the day and feel tired by night or even evening. On the other hand, the late chronotypes or owls feel energised by evening, perform their tasks best at night, and prefer sleeping in till midday.
This is because both groups’ energy levels or body temperatures peak at different times during the 24-hour cycle. The body temperature of a morning person rises during the day and falls by evening. For a late nighter, it would rise gradually during the day, and reach its peak at night.
According to sentinel theory, this trait was grown out of a survival mechanism adopted by our early ancestors. Humans who lived as groups practised ‘sleep shifts’ during the night. Sleep shifts ensured that someone was always at guard and that the group was protected from threats. So, it is assumed that this is what has been passed on to later generations, resulting in our different sleep cycles.
Getting to know about our body clocks can be of great help when it comes to dealing with our tasks. If you feel like you just can’t focus until it’s night, then you’re a night owl. You should schedule assignments for the evenings rather than mornings. For the morning larks, it’s best to finish off their tedious works during the day instead of keeping it for the night.
Has the pandemic affected sleep cycles?
Body clocks or circadian rhythms can be genetic but can also change according to one’s habits. We can relate to how most of us have become almost nocturnal with the coming of the pandemic.
The sedentary lockdown lifestyle makes it difficult to fall asleep at night since nothing is done that makes you tired. The increased screen-time makes it worse since blue light from screens is a major cause that kills sleep. Lack of exercise and excessive exposure to blue light prevents one from following a proper sleep pattern, especially in the altered lifestyles due to the pandemic.
For those who want to get back on track, it is always best to plan appropriate night routines by getting rid of habits that excite the brain and disrupt sleep. It is effective to avoid screen-time right before bed and do something relaxing like reading a book, doodling, or making plans for the next day.
Forcing a lifestyle upon yourself that is not in sync with your circadian cycle can cause major health risks and harm to mental well-being. Whether being a morning lark or a night owl, it is important to find the sleep pattern that matches your circadian rhythm and set the body clock accordingly.
The current world caters to early birds, who can adjust to the 8-5 work schedules without disrupting their natural sleep cycle. The night owls are at a disadvantage in the comparison because they thrive at night and always end up depriving themselves of sufficient sleep.
Various studies have compared the two chronotypes and have found that early risers gain a few more benefits from their routines compared to owls, regardless of work schedule.
A study conducted by the University of Exeter concluded that being a morning person proves protective against problems like depression and thus, ensures greater mental well-being. The study said that the reason for this may be the morning lifestyle that our society is built upon. It is easier and less stressful if you’re a morning lark.
Spending more time in the mornings also increases exposure to sunlight. This triggers a great boost of serotonin and helps fight depression, anxiety and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
But studies also show that larks are super energetic right after waking up. However, they grow tired easily by the evening, unlike owls who can perform better hours after they wake up.
The truth is that most of us are a blend of both these chronotypes. Extreme levels of ‘morningness’ or ‘eveningness’ aren’t that common and there are many different variations of chronotypes other than owls and larks. Anyhow, on which sleep cycle to follow, it’s always safe to find one that aligns with your natural body clock.
It’s a big question of whether to be an owl in the world of larks or try to blend in. They say the early bird catches the worm. If planned right, then any kind of sleeper can put their sleep-wake pattern to good use. So just make sure you get proper sleep and are all set to face the day…or night!