There are who like to work late into the night and others who prefer to get an early start. The night owl and the early bird, each claims that they cannot function the other way around, each proclaims that their schedule suits them best. You would be hard pressed to find someone who is both a night owl and an early bird, they are generally very distinct and different camps. While often people will go from being a night owl when they are young to an early bird as they get older, some people are one or the other throughout their lives. Recent German research may have uncovered why some people prefer to work late and others like to get an early start.
Early bird or night owl?
Some people like to do their work late at night, they find that they work better late at night, others like getting up early and cracking into it before the sun rises. While this may seem like an arbitrary issues recent research in Germany may have uncovered why some people are more productive late at night and others are more productive in the morning.
The research was published recently in the New Scientist and documented possible structural brain differences between the night owl and the early bird. They believe that these are not simply subjective preferences but that they actually have a connection to underlying brain architecture.
The researchers, who are from Aachen University in Germany, state that roughly 10% of people are early birds, while about 20% are night owls, with the remaining 70% not really having any major preference for either.
The origins of the study
Part of the catalyst for this research was early work that found that people who classified themselves as night owls were far more likely to suffer from depression and were more prone to a suffer from a form of chronic jetlag. Other studies also found that night owls tend to consume more alcohol and tobacco than people with better adjusted body clocks.
The German researchers think that these structural differences may be able to help tell us why some people who like to work into the night are more prone to depression, are more likely to suffer from chronic jetlag and have a tendency towards addiction.
The night owl's brain
During the research they found that the night owl’s white matter sections of their brain had a reduce integrity in comparison to the early birds and the 70% who professed no particular proclivity to stay up late or get up early. The researchers stated that they “think this could be caused by the fact that late chronotypes suffer from this permanent jet lag.”
The take home
In their conclusion they wrote that they believe there are potential gene variations that change a person’s internal body clock and that these changes effect the physical architecture of their brains.
So what can night owls do? While there is no ‘cure’ they can try to reduce their exposure to artificial light at night and spend as much time in natural light as this will help their body clock synchronise with the day night cycle.
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