Known as the inventor of the lightning rod and bifocals, Benjamin Franklin is also revered for his famous and insightful quotes such as, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” So just how accurate are these words attributed to one of our country’s founding fathers? Is there a difference between early risers and night owls? Are early birds more successful than their late-night counterparts?
Over the years, this very topic is one that has been debated in various research labs. In the American Psychological Association’s journal, a study touted that people who awoke with the roosters were healthier, more successful, and happier than their counterparts who preferred to burn the midnight oil. The researchers theorized that this discovery is due in part to the fact that society adheres to a structured workday, i.e. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., which fits nicely into the early riser’s sweet spot.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, results demonstrated that night owls were not as proactive as early risers. Morning people get better grades and attend better colleges so hence, better job opportunities seem to be more readily available. Lead researcher Christopher Randler shared with the Harvard Business Review that, “though evening people do have some advantages—other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humor and are more outgoing—they’re out of sync with the typical corporate schedule. When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards.”
Recently in Germany, Aachen University researchers uncovered that there was actually a structural difference in brains of early risers vs. night owls. But another fact discovered by the group was that about 10 percent of people can be classified as early birds, 20 percent as night owls, and the rest somewhere in between have normal internal body clocks. The study published in New Scientist concluded that chronotype, a person’s natural tendency between a state of wakefulness and sleepiness, does not have the same structural brain appearance. An individual’s chronotype is a good indicator as to when he or she will reach peak functioning, intellectually and metabolically.
In addition, other scientists have demonstrated that there are also differences in lifestyle, and hormones between early risers and night owls. In the morning, early risers have higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which helps with energy and their body temperature peaks in the afternoon. On the flip side, night owls have low cortisol in the morning, which makes them groggy and their body temperature is high around 8 p.m.
According to Katherine Sharkey, MD, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine and psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and associate director of the Sleep for Science Research Lab, there is also another difference between early risers and night owls: gender. Men tend to stay up later and women wake when the alarm clock goes off at the crack of dawn.
Not matter if you are an early riser or a night owl, you might be affected by sleep apnea. If you would like to find out more, please contact one of our medical concierges today at to schedule a free consultation.