Morning lark or night owl gets the worm

Merle d’Amérique by Eric Bégin, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Merle d’Amérique by Eric Bégin, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mary Miller, Columnist

Morning larks should not judge night owls so harshly.

An ongoing argument extends down through time: Are morning people more productive than night people? In other words, who gets the proverbial worm?

American culture is full of attitudes about how being an early riser is superior. Sayings such as “The early bird gets the worm” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” perpetuate these attitudes.

But circadian rhythms work differently in different people, said. Some people rise early and do their best work in the morning. Others do better sleeping in late, even until noon, and staying up late into the night. And a third group comes into the discussion: day people who work better in the afternoon. 

According to the article “Are people really ‘Morning Larks’ or ‘Night Owls?’” on the website, “Our sleep schedules aren’t simply personal preferences – they’re innate, biological predispositions.”

Sleep researcher Daniel Kripke, as cited in the BrainFacts article, found that these internal clocks actually “affect every bodily function” from body temperature to hormone balance to brain activity.

Teenagers naturally work off a later inner clock, said, especially after they hit adolescence. Because of this, parents and other advocates have even started a movement called “Start School Later.”

As far as whether morning larks or night owls are more productive, a study that tracked 6000 participants, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in 2021, showed that morning people move 60 to 90 minutes more per day than night people.

And the article “Life Really is Harder for Night Owls. Here’s Why” on, said that researchers found that night owls have lower brain connectivity which is linked with poorer attention, slower reaction times and increased sleepiness.

But as another study, published on the PubMed website, points out, while there are fundamental differences in attention span and sleepiness between the two groups, the “compromised attentional sleepiness commonly associated with late types” happens when they “conform to a societally constrained day.”

Work and school schedules should be more flexible when it comes to people’s circadian rhythms. 

And as far as the proverbial saying, “The early bird gets the worms,” it is relative – the night owl might very well be the one to stay up late enough into the early morning hours to catch the worm.