The Lark vs. The Owl: Don’t Mess with Mother Nature

Morning larks and night owls should stick to their routines.

Posted Dec 16, 2009

Most of us know whether we're a lark who likes to beat the sunrise, or an owl who prefers to work by moonlight. Larks function best in the morning and tire through the day, whereas owls feel sharper as the day goes on and reach their optimum level at around 9 o'clock at night. Owls tend to envy larks, though, especially when they hear about their counterparts who can rise before the sun and get half a day's work done before much of the world eats breakfast. So should an owl try to turn into a lark?

Not likely a good idea. A recent article outlines why this isn't such a good idea, stressing the fact that owls who may try to wake earlier than usual will just set themselves back and suffer the consequences of sleep deprivation. Some of the article's chief points:

• Whether you're a lark or an owl, you still likely need seven to eight hours of sleep.
• If you don't get enough sleep, what time you go to bed or rise won't matter-you'll still experience the side-effects, from depression to a lack of concentration to problems with coordination.
• If you break your natural sleep cycle by forcing yourself to get up early, you'll be tired, less attentive, and not nearly as productive throughout the day.

Something else to keep in mind: Not all "high-powered" people are early risers. Though we do hear stories about tycoons who don't need more than four hours of sleep at night, these are the exception-not the rule.

Last year, scientists discovered that our skin cells may hold the clues to whether or not we are larks or owls. That's right: you're internal clock may be pre-programmed to be an early riser or late-nighter. So don't mess with Mother Nature. Go to bed when you are tired, and get up when you are well-rested. Period.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep DoctorTM