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Early Bird vs Night Owl — Which one are you?

6th September 2018

Slumber Centre

There are two types of people in this world. Those that hear their 6:30am alarm, willingly spring out of bed and begin to go about their busy day, putting the rest of us to shame with just how productive their schedule is. And then there’s those that just can’t help but press the snooze button several times before dragging themselves out of bed and to the nearest coffee machine…

If you’re the latter, chances are you’re a “night-owl”. You’re probably someone who can’t help but stay up late to watch just one more episode of the latest must-see TV series. You’ll still be up in time for work the next day, but your actions have consequently led you to be reliant on 3-shot lattes just to get you through to lunch... On the other hand, if you can happily go about your day without even the thought of a quick 20 minute nap, you’re more than likely an early bird. But which one is the way to go when it comes to being fit, healthy and productive?

Living the early bird life

‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’

We’re told from an early age that being an early bird is the way to go. Sleep gurus would have us believe that unless we’re tucked up in bed by 10pm, we’re never going to be as fit and healthy as we could be and to some extent, there is some truth behind this. If we go to bed earlier, it means that we’re more likely to get up earlier. With the majority of us working 9 to 5 jobs, getting up early means we have time to prepare ourselves for our working day. We’re more likely to feel ready to get to work and generally our mood and alertness are improved because we’ve given our body time to ‘wake up’ properly.

Going to bed early each night also gives us chance to unwind, relax and rest our tired bodies and minds. Rather than staying up late refreshing our social media feeds, hitting the hay half an hour earlier each night means our brains can go into ‘stand by’ mode, improving our sleep quality and making us more productive the next day.

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Being a nocturnal, night owl

“I stay up late every night, regret it every morning and then do it all over again”.

It appears that if you’re not an early bird, you’re simply not doing it right. However, some body clocks just don’t function exactly how we’d like them to (those of us that lie in bed, wide awake until the early hours of the morning will vouch for that). But don’t let that get you down because you’re definitely not alone. The Great British Bedtime Report revealed that only 10% of us go to bed between 9pm & 10pm whilst just 1% of Britons are actually in bed by 9pm. Meanwhile, one in 5 of us (19%) go to bed after midnight. It seems that as a country, we are predominately ‘night owls’. But does this have benefits of its own? Might being a night owl mean that you’re actually more creative and intelligent?

A recent study examined 20,000 students and found that those with a later bed time, the night-owls amongst the group, tended to have a higher IQ. Even when researchers controlled other influences (such as age, income and education), those that went to bed scored better in psychometric tests.

So it’s not all doom and gloom if you’re not in bed by 10pm. In fact, there are some famous people amongst us that might share your habit for the odd late night. Former President of the United States, Barack Obama wasn’t exactly all comfy in bed by 10pm with the lights out. He, by his own admission, was a night-owl throughout his Presidency and often found himself working with as little as five hours sleep. British businessman and billionaire Richard Branson also gets by on just five hours a night. No one is saying that becoming a night owl will leave you waltzing out of work as a billionaire, but the point remains that staying up late may not be quite as bad as everyone makes out.

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Which is best?

We’re afraid there’s not really a right or wrong answer on this. Staying up late means you’re probably more likely to be sleep deprived, especially given the busy lives we all live. However going to bed early is meaningless if you’re still getting less than 7 hours of sleep. We’re all different and we all require a different amount of sleep. It all comes down to routine and getting enough sleep each night to feel well rested the next day.

We’ll leave it to you to work out which you are (and which one you’d rather be). There really is no right or wrong answer on the matter. Perhaps you’re one of those lucky few that can sleep late, sleep well and still be up ready to go about your business the next day. All we would recommend is that you get as close to the suggested 7-9 hours a night.