Night Owl and Morning Lark: Is One More Intelligent and the Other Happier?

Are you a night owl or a morning lark? Do you scowl over your cup of coffee at your chipper officemate—or are you the one attracting the Monday-morning glares?

Whether you’re the night owl who would rather go to bed late or the morning lark who loves to get up early, you may have a reason to be proud of your particular moniker. Studies are showing that morning larks tend to be happier than their late-night counterparts—but night owls may be smarter. Here’s the research:

  • Morning Larks: Today Health reported a series of studies suggesting that morning people are generally happier than those who like to stay up late. Earlier studies explored the habits of young people to determine which set of sleepers self-reported as being happier. A new study looking at evening-type behavior vs. morning-type behavior “across the lifespan” found that older adults tended to wake up earlier and also reported greater feelings of overall happiness and satisfaction. Better sleep, more attuned with the human body’s natural circadian rhythms, may be the reason.
  • Night Owls: A 2010 study in Psychology Today found that smarter people (measured by childhood IQ) tended to stay up later and get up later in early adulthood. Are night owls actually smarter than morning larks? It certainly is a possibility. Still, the methods aren’t clearly explained in Kanazawa’s PT post, so it’s difficult to tell just how valid his hypothesis is.

Whether you’re a night owl or a morning lark, our biological clocks may be “wound” from birth, according to LiveScience. The 7% of people who are early birds even in their younger years and the 8% of people who tend to be night owls even in late life are pretty much hard-wired to do so.

For most of us, though, the line is somewhere in the middle. We’re neither completely night owls nor completely morning larks, but adjust based on the schedule we need to keep. It may be that those with higher childhood IQs were more likely to be in college settings in early adulthood, where a late-night/all-night sleep schedule can be encouraged. There’s really no way to tell, given current research.

It’s perfectly possible to be a cheerful and brilliant morning lark, or a grumpy and dull night owl. In general, I find most people feel better, work better, and are more cheerful when they go to bed early and get up early—but if you can keep that late-night schedule and still feel, look, and perform at your best… well, go for it!

Author Bio: +Michelle Gordon is a sleep expert who researches and writes about sleep and health, and is an online publisher for the latex mattress specialist