Early Birds and Night Owls, Why are we different?
It’s nearing midnight and the night air is cold. There’s a slight breeze but nothing so bad that it would cover up any noise or out of place smells. You’re getting tired, luckily the next watch will show up soon. You can’t wait to get into bed, it’s been a long day. Behind you the slight footfalls of your relief can be heard in the distance, you look at your watch, right on time.
“Good morning”, he says.
“Morning? Man, I don’t know how you can do this, I get sleepy right at ten pm and have to force myself to stay up these last two hours.” You respond.
“It’s just who I am. I’ve never been able to sleep during the night. These night watches are perfect for me.”
“Well, have a great one.” You respond, wondering how on Earth someone can live like he does, but hey, at least you don’t have to stay up all night. You’re looking forward to early morning breakfast and the fresh smells of dawn!
The story above may indeed explain the initial reasoning for evolutionary differences between the early bird and the night owl. Man, in the beginning, had to stay together in social groups for safety reasons. Predators, invaders, and all sorts of threats appeared day and night. Keeping the group safe was necessary. Watches had to be kept day and night. Man evolved to have different circadian rhythms, the way one’s brain reacts to sleep and wake cycles, in order to be able to handle the sleep patterns required to keep all safe.
As a parent, I was guilty of feeling like my sons were growing to be lazy and their lives would be spent unemployed due to the inability to wake early and be on time to morning work. Little did I know at the time that they were indeed just designed to work different hours. In fact, both are doing just fine, one adjusted his circadian rhythm to daytime and is doing great, the other kept the nighttime hours during his stint in the army and is now a nighttime director at a non-profit center. Who knew they would come around? Well, science did.
Genetically we are all wired differently. Women are much more likely to be early birds(48% women, to 39% men). Older people, those 60 plus, tend to be early risers. The distinction between early bird and night owl has a lot more to do with genetics than preferences. Teenagers are found to have a very different circadian rhythm than adults. Many times those rhythms fix themselves around the college years, other times they don’t. It doesn’t mean there is no hope for the night owls, it just means they are better suited for night time work. In today’s society, there is plenty of nighttime work and nighttime success.
About the author:
Javier is the owner of Sleep Well, professionally trained sleep stores, specializing in specific mattresses for specific needs. He lives to give. He is an active member of his community and church. His hard work and efforts pay off for him when he can help others, and give to efforts for the betterment of others.
His spare time is spent with his beautiful wife, Gretchen. They are craft beer hobbyists who enjoy making their own beers, visiting small breweries, and making new friends. Their lives revolve around church, family, exercising, four great dogs, and keeping up with their home in Alamogordo NM.