03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Lark Vs. The Owl: Ingrained Sleep Patterns

Most of us know whether we’re a lark who likes to beat the
sunrise, or an owl who prefers to work by moonlight. Larks function best in the
morning and tire through the day, whereas owls feel sharper as the day goes on
and reach their optimum level at around 9 o’clock at night.

Owls tend to envy
larks, though, especially when they hear about their counterparts who can rise
before the sun and get half a day’s work done before much of the world eats
breakfast.  So should an owl try to turn into a lark?

Not likely a good idea. A recent
outlines why this isn’t such
a good idea
, stressing the fact that owls who may try to wake earlier than
usual will just set themselves back and suffer the consequences of sleep
deprivation. Some of the article’s chief points:

  • Whether you’re a lark or an owl, you still likely need seven to eight hours of sleep.
  • If you don’t get enough sleep, what time you go to bed or rise won’t matter—you’ll still experience the side-effects, from depression to a lack of concentration to problems with coordination.
  • If you break your natural sleep cycle by forcing yourself to get up early, you’ll be tired, less attentive, and not nearly as productive throughout the day.

Something else to keep in mind: Not all “high-powered”
people are early risers. Though we do hear stories about tycoons who don’t need
more than four hours of sleep at night, these are the exception—not the rule.

Last year, scientists
that our skin cells may hold the clues to whether or not we are
larks or owls. That’s right: you’re internal
may be pre-programmed to be an
early riser or late-nighter
. So don’t mess with Mother Nature. Go to bed
when you are tired, and get up when you are well-rested. Period.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™

This article on sleep and body clock is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog.

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