In A Nutshell
In addition to larks and owls, there are two other different kinds of sleepers. Some people feel wide awake, alert, and productive both first thing in the morning and very late at night, after suffering through a slump in the middle. There’s also a type that feel lethargic and tired all day long. And, in addition to the obvious difference like larks being more productive in the morning than owls, there are other differences, too, like larks tending to be more honest in the morning, while owls are more honest at night.
The Whole Bushel
Most people tend to define themselves as either a morning person or a night person. There are those who have no problem waking up early but have a tough time making it through the evening news, while there are also those who consider 11:55 AM still morning and can stay up for all the late-night horror movies.
New studies show that those early-rising larks and nighttime owls aren’t the only types of sleepers, either. If you don’t entirely fit into one category or the other, there are two more options for what your chronotype might be.
Researchers at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences took a survey of 130 people to determine where they fell on not only the sleep scale, but the energy scale. They weren’t just asked when they preferred to go to bed and when they naturally woke up in the morning, but also when they felt the most energetic. While there were a handful of the so-called larks who woke up early and felt most energized in the morning, there were, predictably, a handful of owls that stayed up late and got more accomplished the later it got.
But there were a large number of people—57 of them—who didn’t fall into either category.
These people were split about half and half. Some of them felt wide awake and ready to take on the world first thing in the morning, hit a slump as the day went on, and then got something of a second wind, seeming to capture the best and most productive part of the day for both larks and night owls.
The other group was very, very different, and they were the ones that felt tired all day long, not seeming to be able to catch up on their sleep and feel refreshed at any time.
It turns out that it’s a much more common thing than you might think, and researchers are now dividing our species into four different main types of sleepers—and wakers, if you like.
The idea is basically that different people are governed by different chronotypes, or biological, circadian rhythms that are thought to be determined, at least in part, by genetics. The impact can be huge, meaning that even though someone who really, honestly is a night owl might be the best person for the job and you ask them to do it at 7:00 AM, you’re not going to see the best outcome. The reverse is true for night owls, and there are some pretty interesting consequences that go along with that.
According to researchers at the University of Washington, different chronotypes have different characteristics associated with them. Your early-rising teen might get better grades, but as a whole, it’s your late sleeper who scores better on general knowledge tests.
It also impacts how honest you are. When volunteers were asked to perform a series of tests that were designed to measure just how honest they were being, larks were much more honest in the morning, but as the day turned into night, they entered into more of a gray area ethically. Owls performed the opposite.
While that’s not to say that if someone’s always yawning in the morning meeting you can’t trust what they’re saying, it’s definitely an indicator that there are plenty of actual differences between larks and owls that go way beyond how chipper they are first thing in the morning. Factor in the two new types of sleepers, and there’s a lot more research that needs to be done on the subject.