We have discussed the power of your chronobiology, or your morning or evening waking and sleeping patterns, before. From that post, we got a lot of questions about how to tell whether or not you’re an early bird or a night owl. It matters if you’re an early bird or a night owl because fighting against your natural clock lowers your well-being and performance at work. So, we thought we’d give you more detail so you could find out for yourself. Follow along below, to determine which one you truly are!
Preference for Being an Early Bird or Night Owl
First, in order to determine if you’re an early bird or a night owl, you have to reflect on your preferred waking and sleeping times. To answer these questions appropriately, forget about your forced work schedule, or any life obligations you have. This is all about you and your preferences. Imagine you left all of your responsibilities behind, got caught up on any sleep you may be missing, and are now able to pick any schedule you’d like while fully rested. Now, consider the following questions, which are scientifically validated across multiple studies.
What would make you feel best – to wake up at 5am, 6:30am, 8am, 10am, or 11am? When it comes to bed time, what would make you feel best – to go to bed at 8pm, 9pm, 10:30pm, 12:30am, or 1:30am? Finally, what type do you believe you are? Do you think you are definitely a morning type, maybe a morning type, maybe an evening type, or definitely an evening type? If you chose earlier waking times and sleeping times, and consider yourself an early bird, you might be one! If you chose later waking and sleeping times, and consider yourself a night owl, that may be your type.
Alertness in the Morning and Evening
Next, beyond your preferences, consider when it is easiest for you to be awake and asleep. You might prefer to wake up or go to bed at certain times, but is that actually what is easiest for your body? This next set of questions asks you to consider when you’re most and least alert.
How easy do you find it to get up in the morning – not at all easy, slightly easy, fairly easy, or very easy? During the first half hour that you’re awake, people can vary according to how alert they are. Are you not at all alert, slightly alert, fairly alert, or very alert? Finally, how long does it take you to “recover your senses” in the morning? This refers to a common feeling that you “haven’t had your coffee yet” or you’re not yet ready to face the day. Does it take you roughly ten minutes, twenty minutes, forty minutes, or over forty minutes? If you find it very easy to get up in the morning, you’re very alert when you wake up, and you get your senses back easily, you’re more likely an early bird. If you experience the opposite, you’re more likely a night owl.
Peak Performance for Early Birds and Night Owls
The last way to tell if you’re an early bird or a night owl is to consider your peak performance times. This is not just about what you prefer or when you’re alert, but when you feel you really hit your stride. This is important for your work and well-being because if you force yourself to go hard when you’re not at your peak, you can burn out.
Imagine that a friend asked you to participate in a challenging exercise class that runs from 7pm-8pm. Would you be in good or at least reasonable form, or would you find it somewhat difficult (or very difficult)? Now, what if your boss asked you to engage in a very mentally exhausting task that will take about 2 hours. Which start time do you think you’d perform best in – 8am, 11am, 3pm, or 7pm? If you would be in good form for the exercise class, and selected a later time for the test, you might be a night owl. If you felt you might struggle in the class, and selected an earlier test time, you could be an early bird.
How did you score? Did the results surprise you? If you’re an early bird, try to get your most cognitively taxing work done in the morning. If you’re a night owl, do the opposite. Feel that neither characterizes you? You might be somewhere in the middle. Whatever your type, try to lean in, instead of away from your chronobiology!