I’m a big fan of working late at night. This is based on my personal experience, but there is also an active discussion about the night owl vs morning lark phenomenon. On the one hand, because the world is better attuned to the habits of early risers, night owls are at higher risk of mental health issues and poor mental wellbeing. On the other hand, night owls supposedly come up with more creative solutions and have generally higher intelligence.

There are many factors that work synchronously to decide if you are a morning or a night person. Factors such as your genetics, your environment, the season, latitude, and where you live all play a part. So, is it up to you at all?

How it works is that your genetics play a role in your circadian rhythm or internal body clock. Research published in Nature Communications reveals that the number of a specific gene you carry places you somewhere along a ‘scale of morningness’. These genes are concentrated in the relationship between how your retina converts light and sends signals to your brain. The body clock of a night owl was found to be more delayed than that of the morning lark. Suggesting that the retina of a night owl detected and communicated light less effectively, resulting in poor body clock entrainment. 

Having said all of that, we also all gradually turn into larks the older we get. Or I suppose, the night owls turn into larks, and the larks just stay themselves. 

Once again, I’m a big fan of the night owl cycle. Getting productive past midnight, working through the dark until the first early rays of light start filtering through the window and the birds wake up. There are no distractions, the entire world is quiet, and it feels like you’re the only living thing in existence. Like right now, all I have to think about is my writing.

But then, there’s the aftermath. Sure the early morning rays are pretty and birdsong is nice while it lasts, but then you feel your energy take a plunge, and the need for sleep rolls in. Your eyes start to droop, your mind feels strangely detached from your body, and you fall asleep while the rest of the world powers up. You wake up and gone is the soft light of the morning, and in its place is its much harsher counterpart, beating down on the world.

The days when you have to wake up early are entirely unproductive, you miss out on breakfast which is arguably the best meal (or at least in the top two meals) of the day, you feel fuzzy before you go to sleep, and never feel entirely satisfied when you do wake up. Before you know it, it’s sunset and you’re back to the night.

If you’re a morning person you get to wake up and see the world all fresh and dewy. You can start your day at a regular meal time instead of waking up groggy and trying to figure out which meal to actually commit to. You can make appointments with more ease and won’t need to prep yourself in advance to make sure you don’t miss out on important events. The only thing you lose out on is the productivity magic that 3 a.m. brings. 

Many advocate for leaning into the times when you’re at your most alert, while others warn of the many dangers to the owl-impersonations.  

It’s close to 2 a.m. now and I feel further away from any real conclusions to the owl-lark dilemma. I guess I’ll just stay up till 3 a.m. reading about it. I’ll get back to you if I find anything.

  • Amandi Fernando

    Amandi Fernando is an aspiring writer with an Honours degree in English from the University of New South Wales. She is an avid supporter of doing deep dives into the backstories of literature and cinema at 3AM, beating you to that Arts-student-joke punchline, defensive humour, and not revealing too much in a bio.