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8 Scientific Facts about Early Birds versus Night Owls

5 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Why is it that some people seem to be able to stay up past 11 p.m. like night doesn’t exist, while others are yawning at 9:30 p.m.? And why is that some people can spring out of bed at 5 a.m. while others can’t seem to drag themselves from their slumber before 9 a.m.?

It has to do with our “personal biological clocks,” according to LiveScience. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Let’s take a closer look eight reasons why some of us are morning risers and others stay up to watch the moon go to sleep… 

1. There Could be Personality Differences

The type of person you are during your waking hours could be the result of being a night owl or an early bird, according to, which cites a Spanish study. It claims—perhaps not so surprisingly—that those who spring out of bed before the sun rises are “persistent perfectionists” and “less likely to experience “fatigue, frustration, and difficulties”.

You may think that means night owls are lazy and don’t care about getting things done right. However, according to the source, night worshipers are “go-getters,” which can be left somewhat to your imagination. Night-types are more likely to indulge in “extravagance, impulsiveness, and novelty-seeking,” adds the source.

night owl

2. Night Owls May be More Productive really believe this is true – in fact, it lays out 11-reasons why night people get more done than morning people, backed by science. Why is this? Well, for one thing, working at night is often more peaceful and less distracting, as you won’t have day people texting and emailing you every minute.

The site goes as far to say that night owls are “stronger,” with an “increase in motor cortex and spinal cord excitability in the late evening hours.” (It also says because of this, night owls should exercise at night for the most explosive energy.) It also says night owls are smarter and more creative, but let’s take a closer look at those to be fair. 

night owl

3. Night Owls May be Smarter on Average

Sorry morning risers, we tried to find more evidence that you’re smarter, but it seems night types have the edge. A Psychology Today article with a pretty straightforward headline notes that—”Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent Than Morning Larks”—which explains why this might be.

The article traces back to our ancient ancestors, noting the daytime was the safest part of the day for them to roam because humans rely on sight so heavily to navigate. “Any human in the ancestral environment up and about during the night would have been at risk of predation by nocturnal predators,” explains the source. Although the source doesn’t spell it out, this may mean these types were more likely to be cunning and display sharper survival skills.


4. Early Risers Could Land Better Jobs not surprisingly outlines the potential economic benefits of getting up early. If you are most active in the earlier hours, you will probably achieve higher grades in school. In fact, the articles sites a study out of Texas that shows college students that identify as early risers earned a full point higher on GPAs than their night owl counterparts.

Of course, everyone knows that with many people competing for a finite number of jobs, those with the impressive numbers are more likely to land the position. While we’re on the early riser train, we can also mention that Forbes says these types anticipate problems early and are proactive, and are better at planning—more traits that help in the business world.

early bird

5. Night Owls May Drink More and Be More Depressed

Well here’s another “X” in the night owl column…according to an article from the Daily Mail (U.K.), those who stay up late “without any effort” also tend to drink and smoke more than those with “better adjusted body clocks”.

Aachen University in Germany also found through a study using brain imaging that there’s “a reduction in the integrity of the night owl’s white matter in areas of the human brain associated with depression.” In other words, there are actually physical differences in the brain between morning risers and late sleepers. Also of note – the same researchers say only about 10-percent of people are true morning people, while only 20-percent are natural night owls.

night owl

6. It Might Not all Be Biological

LiveScience acknowledges that we all have certain habits when it comes to waking and sleeping, which are apparently present from birth. However, the source also says that the things you do—and your environment—may play a role too.

As an example, the source says if you’re the type that likes to hit the gym well into the evening, doing so can “shift our built-in predispositions”. But your internal clock has the last say when you want your pillow, even if you try to train yourself otherwise, it adds.

internal clock

7. Your Internal Clock can Change Over Time

Your body’s internal clock—or circadian rhythm, as it’s called—is roughly 24-hours long, to match the length of the day, according to WebMD. However, some people may have a slighter longer clock cycle (making you a night owl), and others a slightly shorter one (making you an early bird).

However, although we said earlier that we’re born with a predetermined rhythm, WebMD says this can change over your lifetime. For example, “school-age children are generally early birds, while teenagers tend to be night owls,” it explains, adding that as you age, you’ll transition back towards being a morning person.

early bird

8. There’s Another Type of Sleep Personality

What if you’re reading these and thinking, “none apply to me?” Well, you may be a Hummingbird, according to These types have their best and most productive hours in the middle of the day, rather than peaking in the morning or late evening.

The advantage of being a hummingbird is that you can still somewhat follow society’s schedule, without having to shower at 6 a.m. to get a jump on your day. You’re not likely to pull an “all-nighter” to finish a project, or get up before the sun to practice some Yoga, adds the article. If you’re not sure what category you fall into, try this Buzzfeed quiz to find out.



Writer, General Health

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.

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