ARE YOU A LARK, AN OWL . . . OR A THIRD BIRD?
ALTHOUGH we all have peaks and troughs, we don’t experience the day in quite the same way.
Each of us has a ‘chronotype’ or body clock — a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that affects our minds and bodies.
Hence the concept of ‘larks’ and ‘owls’ — the former get up early and feel energised during the day, while owls wake long after sunrise and don’t begin peaking until the late afternoon or early evening.
To work out what type of body clock you have, here’s a simple test. Think about your behaviour on days when you don’t have to get up early. Here are three questions: 1. What time do you usually go to sleep? 2. What time do you usually wake up? 3. What is the middle of those two times — ie, what is your mid-point of sleep? (If you typically fall asleep around 11.30pm and wake up at 7.30am, your mid-point is 3.30am.)
If your mid-point is between midnight and 3am, you are a lark (14 per cent of the population). If it is between 6am and noon, you are an owl (21 per cent). Most likely, you’re neither a complete lark nor a complete owl but a ‘third bird’, somewhere in the middle. Our genes dictate at least half of the way our body clocks behave. The other half is determined by age. Most young children are larks. They wake early, fly around during the day and flag in the evening. Around puberty, they begin morphing into owls. They wake up later at weekends and go to bed long after their parents. They reach their peak ‘owliness’ at around 20, then slowly return to larkiness, finally becoming even earlier-risers in later life than they were as children. All of us experience the day in three stages: a peak, a trough and a recovery. Around 75 to 80 per cent of us experience it in that order. But one in four, the night owls, experience the day in the reverse order: recovery, trough, peak. As society is arranged for the larks or ‘third birds’, owls are like lefthanders in a right-handed world. To make the best for yourself, work out your own habits and try to do your most vital work when you’re at your peak.