Night owls are a very specific "breed", and many myths exist about them. One of the biggest myths out there is that being a night owl is a preference. People tend to assume that being one is a lifestyle choice. In fact, I used to think so until I learned the truth.
The Consequences of This Myth
When people see being a night owl or morning lark as a choice or simply as a preference, then you basically get a society like the one we have now: one where sleep is viewed as something that can be adapted to society's 9-to-5 schedule.
You'll see night owls who have to wake up early in the morning so that they can make it to work for 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. Conversely, you'll see morning larks who have to work overnight shifts because of their jobs.
You'll also see night owls out there who will try the latest productivity craze of morning routines so that they can achieve overall health, well-being, and success goals... but to their detriment (boy, do I have a lot to say about this topic; I'll write a blog post on morning routines soon).
You don't choose to be a night owl (nor do you choose to be a morning lark). Rather, your chronotype is genetically determined.
While social factors can contribute to a shift in the time you go to bed or may even be the prime determinants of when you "should" go to bed, they do not determine your chronotype.
These social factors might, however, lead people to say that they are night owls when they are not. For instance, some people classify themselves as night owls or morning larks based upon their work schedules. While you may be working a night shift and awake during "night owl" hours, you may actually be a morning lark who is required to work at a time when you would normally be asleep. More common to see, though, is when the situation is the other way around; night owls are often required to work earlier in the day to comply with 9-to-5 expectations.
It's interesting to note that a benefit of the pandemic lockdown, last year, was improved sleep among night owls who did not have to wake up as early to go to work. They could log onto their laptops from home as opposed to having to wake up even earlier to beat the morning traffic.
Moreover, as I have stated in the past, working against your chronotype can lead to negative health and wellness consequences as well as decreased performance and productivity. It is for this reason that morning routines are not recommended for real night owls.
Who Is a True Night Owl?
Night owls are those whose circadian rhythms are more than a bit longer than the 24-hour day. They go to sleep later as a consequence... not because they are watching Netflix or scrolling through social media, pushing themselves to stay awake because they want to do something fun or interesting . They are also not those who have become used to staying awake past their bedtimes because of work or social commitments.
No, instead, a night owl is simply not tired at that time. They get this burst of strength and energy at night that others don't. Some theorists believe that it is because night owls evolved to keep watch as the rest of the village slept at night... the guardians or protectors of the people.
More on night owls in the next post.
In the meantime, join me for my FREE live webinar on how to optimise your health, wellness, and productivity when you are a night owl entrepreneur or leader.