Most people identify as either an early bird (or a lark) or a night owl. The classic night owl seems to function better in the latter part of the day, whereas, the early bird jumps up at the crack of dawn and raring to go. These characteristics, referred to as an individual’s chronotype, are no joking matter. It’s something that can affect health, performance, and safety as we go about our daily routines.
What are chronotypes?
Chronotype refers to the time of day preferred by individuals to perform daily activities according to their biological clock or circadian rhythm. Most of us already identify as an early bird or a night owl, instinctively knowing whether we prefer to wake up bright and early or are inclined toward nightlife.
According to a review paper published in 2015 by Current Sleep Medicine Report, numerous health problems are more frequently linked to night owls than with early birds. Night owls have an increased risk of obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, and mental health disorders.
Night owls don’t despair! While research suggests early birds have better health, it is unclear whether waking up early is the cause or the result of improved health. Along with a healthy diet, exercise, and generally making healthy choices along the way, early birds take the worm.
Partonen, T. Chronotype and Health Outcomes. Curr Sleep Medicine Rep 1, 205–211 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40675-015-0022-z. Knutson, K. and von Schantz, M. Associations between chronotype, morbidity and mortality in the UK Biobank cohort. 1045-1053 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2018.1454458