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This graphic takes a look at the Early Bird versus the Night Owl in terms of success in careers and how they live their lives. Some studies show that morning people may be more successful in careers, yet night owls are more intelligent and creative gaining that advantage over their morning loving peers.
So why is sleep so important?
A graph displays self reported sleep difficulties among 20 year olds. Nearly half report insufficient or poor sleep affecting activities at least once in the past 7 days. 35% report sleep quality as poor or fair despite sleeping the recommended amount. Others report trouble concentrating or remembering things, trouble working on hobbies, even driving and taking care of financial affairs. Another chart discusses car crashes caused from drowsy drivers. For example in 2005, there were 1,033 out of 39,252 fatal car crashes caused by drowsiness. That was 2.6% of total fatal car crashes. In 2009 2.4% of fatal accidents were caused by sleepy drivers, that’s 730 out of 30,797. This averages about 2 deaths per day.
How did our ancestors sleep?
Members of tribes had different sleep schedules, rotating guard shifts while others slept. Prior to electricity, most people went to sleep after dinner as the sun went down and awoke around midnight to check on family and farm animals, then went back to sleep until sunrise. Modern times we are divided into two groups again, the early birds and night owls. Famous examples of each are Maya Angelou as an early bird, getting most of her work done between 7am and 3pm. Meanwhile Sigmund Freud was a night owl who did most of his work from 3pm to 9pm and then from 11am to 1pm.
The question has been asked, who has it better, the early bird or night owl?
Most school schedules and 9 to 5 work schedules lend the advantage to the early birds. Chronically sleeping on an unnatural sleep cycle leads to Social Jet Lag, where people feel exhausted regardless of the amount of sleep they’ve had. Early birds who are energetic in the morning tend to lose their energy faster than night owls who maintain energy and wakefulness longer overall. After 10 hours of being awake, night owls perform significantly better on reaction time tests. Early birds are less prone to depression and addictions than night owls are. Night owls tend to be more creative and higher cognitive abilities than their day loving counterparts. They are also more likely to explore the unknown and are more curious by nature. Night owls also are risk takers, which can translate to more success and higher salaries in the business world.
The brain makeup of the Early Bird and the Night Owl is even different. The early bird has more white matter, which is what helps neurons communicate. It’s believed that this can be responsible for the early birds being more optimistic, proactive, and resilient toward depression and anxiety. The night owls have more cortisol, which is a stress hormone that helps prepare the body and mind for high-stress situations. This high level of cortisol could be what is responsible for the heightened cognitive abilities and performance in the high-stakes business world. Times of death for early birds and night owls seem to follow their life pattern, with early birds more likely to die before 11am and night owls passing away before 6pm.
There are tips for how to change your cycle and it’s possible that one person can be both an early bird and a night owl at different times in their lives. The truth is, there is no real verdict yet as to whether night owls are really more successful or if the early bird truly gets the worm. At present, both seem to be working well within their set patterns and finding success either day or night.
Does the Early Bird Really Get the Worm?