Shawn T. Smith Psy.D.


Are You a Morning Lark or a Night Owl?

What does your sleep phase preference say about you?

Posted Nov 23, 2009

Over at, I have written a piece on sleep phase preference. Thirty to forty percent of us have a strong enough preference to be classified by psychologists as either "evening types" or "morning types," depending on the time that we prefer to wake up. The rest of us - the majority - are adaptable to a variety of sleep schedules.

There is a good bit of research correlating certain personality traits with sleep phase preference. Did you know that people who naturally wake up earlier tend to be more conscientious? Or that night owls tend perform better on intelligence tests? Or that early risers tend to be more emotionally stable?

Having a preference one way or another is no bed of roses. How do I know? My name is Shawn, and I am a night-owl.

This lifestyle is (mildly) challenging. Not only does the world keep banker's hours, which means the bank is closed when I want to go there, but people pass harsh judgment on my sleeping habits. What am I doing when the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed morning people are cranking up the engine of the world? I'm asleep, if possible. If I am awake, I'm crabby.

That is no way to make a good first impression. During those first few encounters of the day, it is difficult to hide the fact that I just woke up. "Must be nice to sleep late on a Wednesday," they say. Statements like that can make person feel like a real bum.

They don't realize that I was probably still working after they went to sleep. Or I was reading a good comic book. Either way, I was awake. And if the research is right, I probably sleep fewer hours than those annoyingly chipper morning people. Bah.

Well, no more, I say. Night-owls of the world, unite! Embrace your non-normative nature! In fact, there is room for all in this movement - I suspect that you morning people have your struggles, too.

I'd like to know your thoughts on being a morning lark or a night owl, so hit that comment button and tell us all about it.

You can read more here about the mechanisms of sleep phase preference and the personality traits associated them. Nighty-night!

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Dr. Smith is a psychologist in Denver, Colorado and the author of The User's Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It. You can read the introduction and find other goodies at

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