Early Bird or Night Owl…or Somewhere in the Middle?


Most would agree that there are two types of people in life: those who enjoy early mornings, and those who do not.  Since I’ve started at Penn State, I’ve discovered this to be especially true in the college setting.  For example, I’ve learned that there are two main waves of risers on weekends.  The first wave consists of the people who want to get a head start on their Saturday (the people who didn’t stay out for the entirety of the night before).  The second wave of risers typically don’t emerge for another four hours or so.


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I was intrigued to learn that individuals don’t actually decide for themselves whether they are, in fact, an early bird or a night owl.  In an article I found on LifeScience.com, I learned that this is predetermined by your genetics from day one.  This is what is called one’s chronotype, or a tendency for an individual to sleep at a given time over the course of a twenty-four hour period.  In other words, each of us contains an internal clock of sorts.  In fact, this clock can be found in almost all life forms.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t feel as though you fall into one category over the other.  According Penn State professor of psychology, Frederick Brown, nearly half of the population falls into this middle ground.  The good news about this third group, however, is that they are able to rise several hours earlier than usual or fall asleep a few hours later than the average night–meaning we’re an adaptable bunch.  This third group is the most common of the three, with evening people following, and, understandably, early risers being the most rare of the three groups.


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The most interesting fact that I found about the two extreme chronotypes is that there is no permanent switching of chronotype.  Our environment and behaviors can temporarily shift our natural inclination of sleep scheduling, which means that during these college years it is possible to shift more to the night owl chronotype.  It has actually been found that because of increased socialization and changes in hormones, high school students and college students will make up for a substantial cluster of night owls.  According to Brown, however, an individual will always return to their natural chronotype.  Unfortunately this means that true night owls may never know what a productive early start looks like, and vice versa.  For the early birds out there who have temporarily shifted to the night owl chronotype, this is good news for you in a couple of years.  And for you middle-grounders, congratulations– you will be able to adapt to whatever life throws your way.

Here is a quiz that I found that will determine whether you are in fact an early bird or a night owl, if you don’t already know.  If you’re like me, you tend to be a bit of both–depending on the day.  I’d be interested to learn how many of you are genuinely one type or the other, or if you’re stuck somewhere in the middle–able to do early mornings and late nights.

7 thoughts on “Early Bird or Night Owl…or Somewhere in the Middle?

  1. Melissa Raquel Fraistat

    I’m glad I read your post, because I myself fall in between night owls and early risers too, and I’m glad that that’s common. Like you said, it basically depends on the day if I lean towards being a morning person or night owl more. I have always found that interesting because one night I can go to bed at 2 a.m. and a couple days later I find myself waking up at 7 a.m. I think it’s interesting that I never find myself on a normal/regular sleep schedule, like most other people seem to be. I don’t know if this is due to the fact that I fall in the middle of the two options or not, but even so, I still find it interesting.

  2. dms6519

    I also tend to noticed that i never really choose to be an early bird or a night owl. For example, i used to love living like a night owl when i am in holiday and like an early bird during my jet lags. However, my usual routine is to be in the middle. This article really informs me about some new things; i now am aware that we have that internal sort of clock in our body which is indeed really interesting to know but it does make senses. Jet lags provide this evidences as it shown that our body react differently and has an inner clock.

  3. Zihan Wang

    First, I want to say I also post a blog related to sleeping, and I want to study more on your bog. After enjoy your blog, your interesting picture really impressed me. The most common things for student is what time to study, morning or evening? For me, I am a representative night owl, and I usually study in the evening, because I think I can do homework with full energy at that time. Your blog mentions one thing is attractive that our biological clock can be shifted. Can I get this result that if I want to swift my working time, I just need to work in the time when I want for a period, and it will become possible? To shift from night owl to early bird, I get many useful information from you.
    Click here to see a short video about sleep schedule.

  4. Mya Legend Avant

    This post is quite interesting and I sa this because we us all think of the world in a black and white sort of way. We think that a person has to be one wa or the exact opposite, and it is posts like this one that shed new light on the idea I things being one way or another. This post also made me think about other things that contribute to sleep patterns. I know that ou mention that being in the new collage setting could be part of what changes people’s sleeping habit but I know there are also other contributing factor. For instance m doctor told me that the blue light that come off of screens at night keep people up much later. In fact she suggested that a person should turn off all electronics an hour before bed. So keeping this in mind ma this is why some people are considered night owls. Also I wonder what constitutes being a night owl or an early bird. Is that ou get up early or stay up late, or is it that you like being up early or like being up late. I feel like it would be hard to find accurate test results for something like this if the parameters are not clearly defined.

  5. Dana Corinne Pirrotta

    I’ve always been an early bird- I always wake up around 6:30 and start my day off bright and early. I can agree with Molly though, ever since I’ve been at PSU I have been having a difficult time getting to bed early and waking up early, even though normally I would naturally wake up around 6:30 on a normal day. I think it is because everyone on my floor is a nigh owl, and I like staying up with them even when I should go to bed! Ugh- Time management is hard!
    I definitely can relate to this post about the sleeping habits of college kids. Click here

  6. Griffin Lambert Brooks

    Sarah, great post. I took your quiz you suggested and as I thought, I am an early bird. I already knew this about myself which is why I scheduled three 8 am classes throughout the week days. Unfortunately ever since I got to Penn State I feel like I am transitioning to a night owl. I’ve been quite busy during the nights and don’t get back until the late hours not to my appeal. These 8 am classes are killing me and I will be sure to not schedule any more early morning classes in the future semesters. Usually, as suggested I like to get around 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Back home that is about how much I would get because of course, less obligations and more free time to make up my sleep. With so many obligations here, I’ve probably been getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night. I now understand the struggle of all the talk about getting no sleep in college because it feels so true. Here is an interesting article I found that tells us exactly how much sleep we should be getting or if we are sleeping too much.

  7. Molly Mccarthy Tompson

    Ever since I started at Penn State, I have become a completely different person. I used to be in bed by 10:30pm and awake by 6:30. I would wake up, go for a run, take a shower, have a healthy breakfast, and be productive all day. Now, I find myself struggling both to go to sleep before 1am and to wake up before 8 am. I guess this means that I fall in the middle category. I can adjust and adapt to what my schedule looks like. During the week, I usually am in bed (even though I might struggle on a Sunday night) by 12 and I wake up around 8. On weekends, I effortlessly stay up into the hours at the brink of dawn, and find myself missing breakfast the following days. Maybe I am, in fact, an early-bird chronotype who has made the temporary adjustment.

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