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Night Owls: Are Early Birds the Only Ones Getting the Worm?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Are you a night owl or an early riser? You may think one is superior and have some preconceived notions about these two terms. One is not better than the other, the important thing is that the individual is doing what works best for them and the way their brain works. With the global pandemic, this has been a popular topic of discussion because COVID-19 didn’t just “upend where we work, but when we work.” Remote work has both limited us and provided new opportunities, but it’s become part of a “new normal” that we weren’t so familiar with beforehand. You might be wondering why a topic like this matters — well, it has freed night owls from the “cages of 9-to-5 societal rhythms.”

Research proves that roughly half of people are night owls, and this is dictated by genetics, not a sheer choice. The pandemic causing us to not have to go into the office allows people to work and sleep later, which can be a difficult balance for some people.

As of late “76% of global companies allow hybrid work.” This means that most employees can work from anywhere, at any time. This has both given people more freedom to work on their own terms but it has also pushed boundaries and made it more challenging to leave work at the office. Because of this, the traditional 9-to-5 workday schedule is fading and more people jump onto their computers at breakfast time and past happy hour (Microsoft Work Trends Report).

Research has provided that switching to an early, consistent wake-up time amidst the pandemic has given immediate benefits to some people. It has allowed people to increase their physical health and have more time to themselves to do things like exercise and self-care. Getting into the work zone before the world “logs on” provides us with uninterrupted focus before consistent interruptions and distractions come into play.

This has been beneficial for people’s mental health given that “rhythm and routine kill anxiety.” However, most adults still go to bed before midnight naturally (National Institutes of Health). What you might now know is that each individual has a “personalized rhythm known as a chronotype.” This is an “internal timer” that controls and dictates when we naturally fall asleep and when we are most alert. So, based on a study published in Nature Communications, each person has 351 genes that are expressed in your brain, that govern when you feel sleepy and when you feel alert.”

Check out the perspectives of a few night owls you may have heard of!

Alphabet/Google CEO Sundar Pichai

“He gets a second wind around 9 pm and is most productive after 10 pm. He’s still up early enough – between 6:30 am and 7:45 am but saves morning for reflection.” 

Prolific author Michael Lewis

He claims his “ideal writing hours are from 7 pm to 4 am. It’s all about the peace and quiet.” 

Singer Christina Aguilera

“If it were up to me, my favorite time to work would be between 3 and 4 am.”

So, How Do I Get the Worm? 

You might be thinking — what’s the bottom line here? A great way to improve your life is to become aware of and get in tune with your own internal clock. Once you do that, you will be able to live by it and create a schedule that works for you. Once you do this, night owl or early bird — you’ll always wind up with the worm. Good luck everyone! If you would like to talk to a skilled counselor, contact Symmetry Counseling and see how therapy in Chicago can help!

Reference:

Pandey, E., Allen, M., VandeHei, J. (2022). Axios – Economy and Business. Retrieved from: https://www.axios.com/night-owl-early-bird-sleep-internal-clock-6d732c94-f4e7-4992-8f0a-ca5a14a80415.html

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