If you’re one of those people who loves to stay up late but feel you need to change your routine because “the early bird gets the worm,” don’t bother. According to research, trying to switch up your sleeping habits is actually counterproductive because your natural sleep cycle is genetic and messing with it has consequences.
Biologist Katharina Wulff from Oxford University tells the BBC: “When they wake early, for example, night owls are still producing melatonin. ‘Then you disrupt it and push the body to be in the daytime mode. That can have lots of negative physiological consequences.”
Also from the BBC:
For a night owl waking at 7am, her body still thinks she’s asleep and is acting accordingly, so she’s groggy for much longer than a morning person who wakes up at the same time.
Researchers also point out that because evening types often have to function when their bodies don’t want to, it makes sense that they may have worse moods or lower life satisfaction. It may also mean that they’ve had to figure out how to be more innovative and cut corners – which may encourage their creativity and cognitive skills.
Equal parts of the population (about a quarter) are naturally early risers and night owls, with the rest landing somewhere in the middle.
And because our waking schedule is built into us, the idea that “morning people” are more productive is simply not true.
If you think about it, even though early birds put more energy into daylight hours, night owls are being productive while most of the world is asleep.
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As Inc. points out, plenty of successful people prefer to sleep late, including Reddit Cofounder AlexisIn Ohanian, Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti, authors Gustave Flaubert and James Joyce, and politicians Bill de Blasio and Winston Churchill. And as the BBC explains, being a night owl has its advantages, including making more money.
Night owls tend to perform better on measures of memory, processing speed and cognitive ability, even when they have to perform those tasks in the morning. Night-time people are also more open to new experiences and seek them out more. They may be more creative (although not always). And contrary to the maxim (‘healthy, wealthy and wise’), one study showed that night owls are as healthy and wise as morning types — and a little bit wealthier.
If you’re a night owl who has to start work (or school) at the crack of dawn, there is something you can do, albeit, it’ll take some time and discipline to override your natural sleep cycle. Wulff recommends morning exposure to bright (or natural) light, avoiding artificial light at night and carefully-timed melatonin intake.