Owls And Larks

Jorge and I stumbled onto the topic of chronotypes this weekend. It all started when he asked if I categorize him as a night owl or an early bird.

I said I hadn’t thought of him as either because he drives trucks. He has to be flexible about his hours. On the other hand, it’s usually afternoons when he arrives at my house when his route is from Denver to Minneapolis. That means he begins those trips in the wee hours of the morning. So either by necessity or choice, Jorge is probably an early bird.

My friend nodded in agreement. He then mentioned that he oftentimes begins other routes in the evening because his boss knows Jorge has no trouble naturally remaining awake at night. So he thinks he’s more of a night owl than a morning person.

I interjected that he must be chrono-flexible then. We both laughed about that notion.

Many years ago, chronotypes were discussed in my Psychology 101 class. The professor said there are two basic categories: owls and larks. Each one is easily defined. Owls are more active and alert overnight and go to bed near daybreak. Larks are more productive early in the day and go to bed shortly after dusk.

There was a chronotype study in 2011 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that paired a questionnaire’s results with game statistics of 16 players from the San Francisco Giants Major League Baseball team. The players had better games when their chronotypes aligned with the start times of the games. The players struggled more when their types and start times were not aligned.

The research centered around the 2009 and 2010 Major League Baseball seasons. When night owls played in games that started after 8:00 pm they tended towards better averages (approximately .306). When morning larks played in games that started before 2:00 in the afternoon they performed better (approximately .267). When the games conflicted with their types, night owls suffered more by hitting 54 points less in afternoon games; larks hit 8 points lower in night games.

In hindsight, I wonder if the Giants’ coaching staff used this data during the 2012 season as they went on towards an amazing season that was capped off by a four game sweep over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. If the team actually utilized chronotype matching in 2012, why didn’t they rank as high in later years? Did they utilize it in subsequent seasons or did the other teams also begin utilizing chronotype matching ? This study requires more scientific research.

Jorge said that while he thinks that he leans more towards being a night owl, he feels more creative with his woodworking hobby during the daytime. The trouble is, that he often procrastinates completing his woodworking projects. This frustrates him.

I wondered aloud if one reason Jorge and I are friends is because we both feel ambiguous about our chronotypes.

The lion’s share of my career consisted of working overnights. I absolutely loved the graveyard shift. When given a choice between day, swing, and graveyard, I instinctively selected the nighttime work. The tables switched after retirement. Now, I much prefer early mornings over nights. I’m raring to go at 3:30 am. When the sky begins to darken, I become sleepy. So I’ve been both an owl and a lark.

I asked Jorge if he feels happier in the daytime or during the night. He said that’s a toss-up but maybe slightly happier in the mornings. I replied that I’m also more happy during the daytime, but maybe being retired is part of that attitude.

Jorge added, maybe we should think of larks and owls as extremes at ends of a spectrum–much like sexuality–sort of like the Kinsey scale but a measurement of chronotype. I grinned and said, it looks like I could go either way, but for now, I’m as happy as a lark.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this quote from Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse: “The morning was a wretched time of day for him. He feared it and it never brought him any good. On no morning of his life had he ever been in good spirits nor done any good before midday, nor ever had a happy idea, nor devised any pleasure for himself or others. By degrees during the afternoon he warmed and became alive, and only towards evening, on his good days, was he productive active and sometimes, aglow with joy.”

As a side note: Today marks nine-years of blogging with WordPress.


About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Health, Meanderings, Science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Owls And Larks

  1. Doug says:

    I’m definitely an owl. Been working the graveyard shift since the early 80’s. Can’t think of any other way to go.

  2. I’m more of an owl than a lark. In college I’d drive 20 hours to school or home on breaks stopping only for gas, food, or bathroom. I liked driving at night but also really liked watching the sun come up to reveal the landscape. Congratulations on nine years of blogging with WordPress!

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