Your biological clock works on its own – a roughly 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. This is influenced by light and the environment, regulating the clock so that we go to sleep and wake up on the same schedule. This body clock decides your sleep pattern and sleep quality – and it makes you either a Night Owl or a Morning Lark. The body clock can run slightly longer than 24 hours in some people, who go to bed early and wake early. In others, it’ll run slightly less, so people who go to bed late will sleep later in the morning. Therefore, knowing if you’re a night owl or a lark can be helpful in ensuring you get the best sleep.
Scientists believe that people have inherent differences when they sleep and wake best. This is down to individual chronotypes. A chronotype is the time of the day when a person functions their best. So, what you are is partly determined by genetics.
You can read more about circadian rhythm in our article here.
What Are the Sleeping Types?
There are three different sleeping types:
Owls – people who go to bed late and wake up late
Larks – people who go to bed earlier and wake up earlier
Ambivalent – people who can adapt to sleep schedules easily
Improving your sleep can be helped by knowing which type you are. If you try to work against your chronotype, you’ll have a tougher time falling asleep at night and getting up in the morning. You’ll also experience more disturbed sleep. For example, if you’re an owl and decide to go to bed earlier so that you can get more sleep, you could find that, instead, you’re spending an hour lying awake in bed. If you do this over a period of time, your brain will come to associate your bed with being awake. This’ll make sleeping even more difficult. Therefore, finding out if you’re a night owl or lark will help you decide the best sleeping schedule for you.
Are You a Night Owl?
There are three simple questions to ask yourself to find out if you’re a Night Owl:
- Do you need to sleep until about 11 a.m. to wake up feeling bright and alert?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep before midnight?
- Do you fall asleep quickly if you go to bed at 1 a.m. – without feeling excessively sleepy?
If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then you’re an owl. Night owls feel best and most alert during later hours. They prefer having their main meal late in the day, and typically skip breakfast. Instead, a cup of coffee or tea is their go-to morning meal. However, if they need to get up early, they need an alarm clock to make sure they get up.
Are You a Lark?
There are also three simple questions to ask yourself to find out if you’re a Lark:
- Do you wake up bright and alert by 6 a.m.?
- Do you fall asleep easily if you go to bed at 9 p.m.?
- Do you find it hard to stay up until midnight?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you’re a lark. Larks wake up early and are at their best during the first part of the day. They’ll eat breakfast and will prefer to retire relatively early. Plus, unlike night owls, they’d rather eat a light dinner.
Night Owls are more common than Larks, as humans have an inner clock with a period slightly longer than 24 hours. This causes a tendency to stay up a bit later and wake up later each day. Owl and Lark tendencies are natural and are not considered problems until they cause sleep deprivation or interfere with daily routines.
To avoid sleep deprivation, don’t fight your natural sleep pattern. This is easier for larks, as night owls who have to get up in the morning for work can find it difficult to feel alert during the earlier parts of the day. If you’re a Night Owl who has to get up early for work or other obligations, gradually adjust your sleep schedule so that you are getting your full hours of sleep. Keep consistent bedtimes, avoid caffeine during the afternoon and evening, and get plenty of sunshine as soon you’re up.