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What does it mean to be an early bird versus a night owl?

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Night owl vs. early bird: What your wake-up-time says about your personality

Night owls and early birds seem like they operate on two entirely different planes, and the reason for that is more scientific than you might think. It has to do with our natural circadian rhythms — early birds have shorter ones and night owls have longer ones.

All humans operate on a 24-hour clock, because that's how long it takes the earth to spin around fully on its axis. However, your natural cycle, or circadian rhythm, has to do with how long your body can stay awake during that 24-hour cycle. If you're a night owl, you can comfortably stay awake for longer stretches of that 24-hour cycle.

More: Understanding benefits of sleep — and risks of not enough sleep

The science behind why we have longer or shorter rhythms is that night owl and early bird brain matter is actually different. Night owls have less insulating matter that transmit neural messages, so they're brains tend to remain active longer. The funny thing is, despite your brain make up, you can actually change from a night owl to an early bird and back over your lifetime. It all hinges on changing hormones, and how your outside stimuli affects you (aka high school, to college classes, to work schedules). However, if you've tended towards one rhythm or the other over a long stretch of time, you may find you exhibit certain qualities over others. If you're not sure which category you fall into, here are some tell tale signs, and common personality traits of night owls and early birds

Night owls

Night owl vs. early bird: What your wake-up-time says about your personality

Image: Giphy


1. You have a very hard time getting up in the morning.

2. You almost never fall asleep before midnight.

3. You find you're most productive in the mid to late afternoon.

4. You're generally more extroverted, and enjoy going out more than staying in.

5. You're emotionally stable for the most part.

6. You drink caffeine like it's your job.

7. You suffer from insomnia.

More: How to fix your teen's bad sleep habits

What it means about you

Lots of research has been done on night owls and their intelligence levels. Overall, studies suggest night owls are more creative, because they can remain mentally alert for longer. One study in particular says night owls are more intelligent than their early bird counterparts.

However, the downside to having a slightly more active brain is it can spawn more narcissists and psychopaths. WebMD also says night owls tend to have problems with depression, alcoholism and are often prone to illness, because they're usually not allowing their bodies enough sleep.

Early Birds

Night owl vs. early bird: What your wake-up-time says about your personality

Image: Giphy


1. You enjoy your rest. This often means you cut nights short to get your full eight hours.

2. You are most productive in the morning.

3. You tend to get that 2 p.m. drowsy feeling.

4. You tend to sleep well — meaning the whole night through.

5. You thrive on the typical 9-to-5 work day.

6. You tend towards being a home body.

7. You're pretty reliable and punctual.

What it means about you

Early birds really do tend to get the worm, so to speak. Since they are at their best earlier in the day, they're awesome at getting things done. A 2008 study at Texas University said self-described early risers on average score a full GPA point higher than their night owl counterparts. They work really well within traditional systems and structures, and thus appreciate logic above all else. They're mega goal oriented, and love to plan ahead. They're not afraid of the super early morning workouts, so they're often healthier overall.

They sleep much better, which also contributes to them being healthier and happier. All this makes them more optimistic people, and less prone to vices that drag down their productivity. However, the downside of all this productivity is higher stress levels, and a more compulsive, schedule-driven lifestyle, which can seriously diminish one's creativity.

More: Trouble Sleeping? Try our five-step guide to dropping off

*There are positive qualities to both personality types; but as with most things, if you can manage a middle way between them, you'll enjoy more of the benefits and less of the downsides.

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