Are You A Lark Or An Owl?

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As you go through the day, it is usually obvious when you are at your best. Some of us will wake up bright and early, and already feel wide awake. They’ll jump out of bed in their eagerness to begin the day but by the time that they have finished their lunch, their eyes are starting to tire, and you’ll find them slumped up against their computer by four in the afternoon. On the other hand, there are some of us who are complete opposites. You are not able to remove them from bed for love nor money, and even when you do, they do not seem to make sense. By the time evening has come, however, they perk up, and suddenly want to discuss the situation in the Middle East, or run around the house madly.

These two types of people are commonly referred to as ‘larks’ and ‘owls’, or morning people and evening people. No one is really sure exactly why we are generally better and more alert at the same time each day, but many scientists believe that it is closely tied to our body clock. We get into a particular rhythm perhaps as a child, more likely as a young adult when we have for the first time control over our own habits and that is what our body is used to. We stick to it because we know we are most productive when we do, and we get stuck in the habit. Larks find it difficult to concentrate after an evening meal, and owls dread the thought of an early morning start. This is what is called our ‘chronotype’: the time of day when we are at our best.

Of course, for many years we have just believed that this was a quirk of being human: another one of those little differences that make us smile when we realise that our partner is completely useless when we are ready to go. But further developing research into this area has revealed that there are actually quite important consequences to knowing when our routine is. If we do not, then we could end up making some very bad decisions.

Through a very intensive study, psychologists have discovered that although productivity is certainly linked to our body clocks in a way that we all understand, there are in fact many other things that are linked to our body clocks as well. Perhaps the most disturbing thing that they discovered through their research is that our moral compasses are aligned to our body clocks that means that we are more likely to make an ethically ‘good’ choice when we are in our prime, and more likely to lie and cheat during the time when we struggle.

For example, a lark is usually able to continue on that strict new diet during the day, when they feel very wide awake, but as soon as the sun sets, they find it more and more difficult to remember exactly why they are no longer eating that forbidden fruit. As the evening wears on, the lark is more and more likely to cheat and eat that food and then lie about it to another person. On the other hand, an owl is much more likely to make a rash decision in the morning, when their body clock is not really awake yet, and yet they can remain strong on their principles in the evenings.

Sunita Sah was the person that carried out the study, entitled ìThe Morality of Larks and Owlsî, and states that the study contained ‘implications for workplaces’. Larks are more honest in the mornings, and owls are more honest at night. Of course, this means that our business ethics will also alter throughout the day, being ‘better’ and more honest during the time when we feel most awake. It almost seems to suggest that people should be allowed to work when they feel most awake and not during the typical nine to five business working hours to ensure that they are being honest with their customers and clients.

Many people wonder whether or not it is possible to change your chronotype, and go from being an owl to a lark, or vice versa. It is possible, of course, to force yourself to be more active at one time of day rather than another, but it is believed that our chronotype is not a mental thing, but rather a biological element of our programming. That cannot be changed, and cannot be undone. If you are required to be more active and alert during a time when you are typically tired and lethargic, however, there are things that you can do to try to keep yourself motivated and energetic.

If you are a lark, and need to keep going in the evening, have some down time in the late afternoon. By doing relatively little from 3pm to 6pm, and then a meal, you should have the energy reserves to continue on much later into the night than you are accustomed to.

If you are an owl, and need to get up early in the morning, then an early night and a light machine in the morning should begin your waking up process a lot earlier keeping it as natural as possible to help your body acclimatise to the process.

3 Comments

  1. Samantha

    I’m in awe of people who can get out of bed and immediately feel refreshed and ready to start the day. Most mornings I wake up and feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. The Morality of Larks and Owls study is really interesting – I never knew that it could have that much of an effect on behavior.

  2. Eric

    I am more of an owl because I struggle to go to bed early and find myself working at my PC until 2 AM or more. I have some problems waking up in the morning but most nights I get a lot of work done. Sometimes I might do in 3 hours what I would otherwise do in 9! So I am definitely more efficient at night.

  3. Arianna

    It’s interesting to read about the differences between a lark and an owl and how they would react to certain things. I feel like I am an owl based on what you said here. I feel more alive during the night and would work non-stop when it’s dark outside. I slowly start to lose my edge once daylight sets in.

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