Are You an Early Bird or a Night Owl?

Does the early bird always get the worm? Are there real biological differences between early risers and night owls? Everyday Einstein explains.

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #131

The Benefits of Being a Night Owl

Though early risers get better grades, night owls tend to be more creative, and better risk-takers.

Early risers may be more alert in the morning, but their focus has less stamina. Sleep studies have shown that night owls show stronger focus and longer attention spans compared to early risers when both groups were tested 10 hours after waking.

And even though early risers get better grades, night owls tend to be more creative, and better risk-takers. Night owls are observed to have higher levels of cortisol, perhaps due to the body making up for the offset between the body’s natural rhythm and cues from the environment, which can lead them to take more risks offering the potential for higher reward. There is also evidence that night owls are more intelligent on average.

In a recent study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences, researchers observed over 700 people who showed a split in personality traits for night owls versus early risers. The morning lovers tended to be more persistent and resistant to frustration, and also showed lower levels of anxiety. The night owls were braver, but also more likely to develop addictive habits.

The true cause of these differences is still unclear. They may all be tied to the same genes that determine our circadian rhythms. They may instead be a result of this social jetlag leaving a permanent imprint on our personalities. Likely, the answer is a combination of both factors.

Are you a night owl or an early riser? How has this affected your life? Share your thoughts with us at Facebook.com/qdteinstein or on Twitter where I'm @QDTeinstein.


Rooster and night owl images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To exercise your choices about cookies, please see Cookies and Online Tracking.