People who are larks function better in the morning. Night owls are more alert in the evening. But which “chronotype” enables people to function better over the length of a day?
A new study in Science takes a look. It involved 16 early morning risers and 15 night owls. They performed alertness tests in a brain scanner after following their normal sleep schedule.
Newsweek and Science report that both groups performed well when they took the test 1.5 hours after waking. But the night owls pulled ahead when both groups were tested after being awake for 10.5 hours. They were more alert and had faster reaction times. Overall their performance improved by about 6 percent.
So do night owls have a natural alertness advantage over morning larks? Not necessarily.
Health News points out that an advantage in the lab may not translate to the workplace. A person who is a “morning type” will be alert during the hours of a normal workday. But “evening types” may struggle to align their natural sleep-wake pattern with their work schedule.