Does the Early Bird Really Get the Worm?


We’ve all heard the phrase “The early bird gets the worm.” We all must find ways to “get the worm” in life, but some of us are thinking, “But do I have to get up that early?” I’m one of those people. For me, mornings are hard. Really hard.

We all have different ways of getting things done because we are all unique. But even though everyone has different methods, we can divide most people into two categories: early birds and night owls. Through all the crazy tactics people use for productivity, most people would define themselves as one or the other. But what do those terms mean?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines early birds as “an early riser, or one that arrives early and especially before possible competitors.” Many people associate themselves with the early bird category because they believe they are more productive and are able to focus their time and energy better in the morning. Mitchell Moffit, co-creator of a video series about benefits and downfalls of sleeping patterns, describes early birds by saying, “Early birds tend to display more positive social traits, such as being proactive and optimistic, and are less prone to depression or addictions to nicotine, alcohol, and food.”

We’ve all met early birds, and we can safely say that that statement is pretty much accurate. If you have an early morning class, it is easy to distinguish the early birds from the not-so-perky night owls. So how do the night owls differ from those that do not struggle with mornings?


Cambridge Online Dictionary defines night owls as “someone who ​prefers to be ​awake and ​active at night.” Night owls tend to be more introverted and secluded, and also struggle with keeping up with daily life because of their tendency to be awake at the wrong times. In contrast to his cheery description of the early birds, Moffitt describes night owls by saying, ”Night owls exhibit significantly less white matter [in their brains], and as a result, there are fewer pathways for feel-good hormones such as serotonin or dopamine to travel through, but it’s not all bad for the late-nighters. In fact, they tend to be much more creative, have been found to have higher cognitive abilities, and are known to be risk-takers.”

While there are a few speculations as to what makes people early birds or night owls, one of the most consistent explanations is that it is determined by genetics. CBS News reported on this topic, and Ana Adan from the University of Barcelona discusses how genes play a major role in our circadian rhythms.

I can testify to this because not only am I a severe night owl, so is my mom. While my dad thinks that sleeping until five AM is “sleeping in,” my mom’s productivity begins to rise around ten PM. I have definitely inherited that gene. Maybe my mom developed that trait from raising four children and being forced to stay awake through the night. Or maybe she’s just always been that way. Either way, I know exactly where my night owl tendencies come from.

Even though life forces me to awake early, I prefer to stay up irrationally late and then sleep until eleven AM. I think better during the night. During the daytime, everything comes into the light and we are forced to deal with everything that comes out way. The night brings peace. Nighttime gives us an opportunity to search for deeper thoughts and ideas. I find that my creativity greatly increases when the sun is hiding. I could not count the times I have stayed awake much too late because my creativity increases and I simply must express my thoughts.

Even though I have learned to adapt to normal, daytime life, I would much rather spend my time dreaming under the stars. My productivity levels increase with soft light and cool temperatures. When the sun goes down, I feel myself fall into a pattern of getting things done, whereas I just want to stay curled up in my bed each morning. Even though the world demands we become early birds, I will forever be a dreamer of the night.

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Not sure of which category you fall into? Take this quiz to find out!

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