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Early Bird vs. Night Owl

By Christian Roemer

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” -Benjamin Franklin

Ole Ben Franklin was many things, but apparently a night owl was not one of them. There seem to be two types of people in this world: morning people and night people. Some folks can jump out of bed early in the morning, raring to go. Other people look like Methuselah reincarnated if they’re forced out of bed any hour before noon. I’m a shameless early bird. My big sister is the complete opposite.

If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane with me, I’m going to give you a glimpse into my life as a child. From about four to nine years old, every weekend I would wake up at 7:00 a.m. sharp, make myself a bowl of cereal, and watch cartoons until the rest of the house arose from their slumber. My folks would usually wake up at around 10:30 or 11:00, and we’d have to check on my sister in the early afternoon to make sure she hadn’t passed away in her sleep.

I’ve just always woken up early and gone to bed early. I just like it better.

But why?

Well, according to science, we’re born that way. Scientists have found that our circadian rhythms--the internal clocks that we all have--come pre-programmed from birth. While most people aren’t strict night owls or early birds, every person is born with a natural sleep cycle preference.

Because we’re all hardwired from birth with a genetic predilection for sleep schedule, scientists have found that most people never change. If you’re an early bird when you’re young, you’ll probably stay an early bird when you’re old. It also works the opposite way.

If we’re genetically predisposed to being early birds or night owls, what happens when we go back into nature? When I go camping, for example, I almost instantly tune myself to sun time. In other words, I rise with the sun, and I hit the hay with the sun. It’s actually uncanny how quickly my body gets me onto the same schedule as the big burning ball of fire in the sky.

The interesting thing is that true night owls aren’t affected by the sun at all. Their circadian rhythm operates independently of the day/night cycle, so if I went camping with a night owl, we wouldn’t be spending very much time together. I’d fall asleep as soon as the sun went down, and I’d be up by myself for a long after the sun came up.

I know the next question you want to ask: is one type of sleep pattern better than the other? The answer is yes.

Night owls, I’m sorry to say, are not on the right side of the health wagon. Because night owls have a less-strict schedule, their body is subject to a higher rate of a bunch of ailments. It turns out that being up and down with the sun is much healthier for us.

On the surface, it might seem like being a night owl or an early bird is an insignificant difference. It turns out that there’s actually a genetic variation between those two types of people.

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