Night Owl or Morning Person?

I think we can all agree that 8 am classes are the worst.  It’s probably safe to assume that a majority of college students would classify themselves as night owls as opposed to morning people.  But which type of lifestyle is better for you?

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It turns out that the difference between night owls and morning people isn’t just when they choose to go to bed.  In fact, the makeup of the brain differs between the people in each group. According to, researchers from Aachen University in Germany have studied the brain composition of several people who claim to be night owls and morning people.  The study consisted of 59 people.  16 were classified as early risers, 23 were night owls, and 20 were “intermediate”.  The study found that relative to the morning people and intermediates, the night had significantly less white matter in the brain.  White matter is the tissue that helps communication among the nerve cells.  There is no clear mechanism yet, but the researchers think it has to do with “social jet lag”.  The term refers to the fact that night owls want to stay up all night and do things, but are forced to wake up early to societal obligations like work or school.

Some other differences the Aachen University scientists found were that people who stayed up later were at a higher risk for depression.  They were also more inclined for tobacco and alcohol use, or food consumption (may be attributed to midnight snacking).  On the bright side however, night owls also seemed to be more productive during the day than early birds.  According to,  researchers from Belgium and Switzerland conducted a study with 31 participants (16 morning people and 15 night owls).  The researchers had them sleep for 7 hours overnight and then perform several tasks related to sustained attention.  Both groups performed the tasks similarly, however, the difference showed later in the day.  About 10 hours after waking up, the night owls showed higher levels of activity in parts of the brain related to attention.  The morning people were also more tired and had slower reaction time.  So, unsurprisingly, night owls seemed to be better at having energy later on in the day and night.

Now the conclusions from these studies sound very logical and easy to follow.  However, they did extremely small sample sizes.  And it appears that the way they got the participants was from volunteers which also could have skewed the results and therefore render the conclusion not very representative of everyone.

6 thoughts on “Night Owl or Morning Person?

  1. Devon Buono

    I thought your overall question was perfect. I haven’t ever labeled myself as either, but I guess if I had to choose one I would say I’m a night owl. I never even thought that there was a physical difference between the two. I always saw the two categories as either being able to wake up in the morning (Morning Person), or people who are cranky in the morning (Night Owls). The fact that there is a difference in the amount of white matter in the brain is fascinating to me. My only question is, are the morning birds more efficient than night owls at completing tasks in the morning? Great post, I really enjoyed reading it!

  2. Thomas John Krieger

    I completely agree with you questioning these studies because like you said the sample size wasn’t very big or selected properly. I think that night owls are more prone to alcohol use because that is more of a night time thing. Night owls have lots of energy still at night, so they want to go out, and I think that could lead to the alcohol use.

  3. rvm5523

    Great post! I can honestly relate to this and can proudly say that I am probably more of a night owl. I never really knew if being a night owl could benefit me but after reading your examples and reasoning I can understand why I do in ways benefit. I can see how morning people would have less energy especially. I found another link that supports why which is on Here is the link backing up your hypothesis, Thanks for the post!

  4. Xueyao Cao

    I’m really interested in this topic. I considered myself as intermediate but more of a night owl. I’m more productive in night hours than in day time. However, staying up late through nights makes me feel exhausted in the morning next day, which makes me need to take a nap in the middle of the day so I could stay up late again. This really creates a negative cycle. I think I might not be the only case who have issues with it, and I’m trying to transfer my habits into a morning person. As you have mentioned in the blog, there are more cons than pros for staying up late in nights. I found out an article that talkes about how bad it is to stay up late.

  5. Thomas Tatem Moore

    This article interested me because I feel I am completely on one side of the spectrum. I feel I am 100 percent a night owl. I always stay up later than I should, and have trouble waking up at a reasonable hour in the morning. I was interested in the fact that it may be your mental make up, and not just a simple decision. I always thought it was just my decision. This video I found shows the symptoms of a night owl like myself.

    1. Olivia Helen DeArment

      I can honestly say I have experienced both of these in my lifetime so far. When I was in elementary school and middle school I was a complete morning person. I was the first up in my house ready to go (especially on holidays). I always thought that people who slept in were ruining the day. Now, as a college student I have flipped sides 100%. I value sleep so much, sleeping in until the last second and stay out/up late frequently. I honestly depends on an individuals lifestyle and what works for them to go through a daily routine. For right now I have survived, especially not having classes until 10am, but if an 8am comes on my schedule anytime soon, I may have some serious changes to make.

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