Do early birds really get the worms?

According to research published in the September 2009 Scientific American, 'Mind' magazine it seems that while it may be true that early birds actually do get certain 'worms', it is also likely that they will tire considerably earlier than night owls.

In a study at Belgium's University of Liège, researches studied the impact on cognitive ability during the day of both early risers and night owls.

It seems that while there is no difference between attention related brain activity after an hour and a half after waking, after ten and half hours night owls showed significantly greater brain activity and were significantly more alert and awake than early birds, performing much better on reaction time tasks and able to maintain attention for longer periods.

Areas of the brain that showed an increase in activity include the suprachiasmatic area, home of the body’s circadian clock, which sends signals to boost alertness and the desire to sleep increases. Early birds do not get this boost and tend to need to 'crash', to have a nap, in the afternoon.

What is not studied in this research is whether or not, as early risers, maintain, the effectiveness of the brain (or any other) activity is heightened for those awake early in the day. Monks and other practitioners of meditation always prefer the early morning to meditate, to pray, and builders also say that an hour of work before 9am is worth two hours after.
Night owls also swear that their effectiveness rockets after midnight, where the rest of the world is asleep and work can be done.

So again, it is up to the individual, but if you are an early riser, be aware that you will naturally become less alert mind afternoon, so plan your nap, cup of coffee, or simply avoid activities that require sustained attention.

Related to - Recent health research

By Mark O'Brien

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