Science Says Night Owls Who Wake Up Late Are More Intelligent Than Early Birds

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(Image credit: Simone Becchetti/Stocksy)

Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous phrase, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His viewpoint sounds nice, and his own personal success gives his advice some strong support. However, now night owls and researchers alike would beg to differ.

During the last few decades, there’s a growing body of fascinating research on the relationship between sleep patterns and intelligence. While there is still more to learn, scientists have made great progress into what it means when your head hits the pillow. One study of U.S. Air Force recruits aimed to systematically explore the relationship between intelligence and sleep scheduling. After assessing the 420 participants, they discovered that night owls are more likely to have higher intelligence scores. They’re not saying that sleeping late makes you smarter, but a higher IQ leads to night owl tendencies.

Satoshi Kanazawa and Kaja Perinawas supplied more proof with their definitive study, “Why night owls are more intelligent,” in 2009. He and his team concluded, “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.” They analyzed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and considered to explain why that’s the case.

Since then, other researchers have delved deeper and looked into different populations to learn more. One team of scientists from The University of Chicago and Northwestern University analyzed GMAT scores from MBA students in 2014. They discovered that GMAT scores were significantly higher among night owls than among early-morning types for both men and women. Yet more support for smarty-pants night owls.

People, unlike other mammals, have the unique power to override their genetic predisposition and circadian rhythm. With the help of electric lights, caffeine, alarm clocks, and more, they can train or force themselves into morning lark or night owl schedules, which Kanazawa and Perinawas’s study suggests is a sign of intelligence as well.

If you need more proof, simply look to some of the most famous night owls who happen to be well known for their intellect, among many other accomplishments. The list includes President Obama, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and many more. Generally, being a morning person is heralded, but identifying as a night owl is not without its perks or good company.

As for morning people, the early bird still gets the worm, at least as far as we know. However, night owls everywhere rejoice late into the night, then smugly hit the snooze button the next day.

How Can I Get on a Better Sleep Schedule?

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Sleep schedules vary a lot from person to person. Some are naturally “larks”—early to bed and early to rise—while others are “night owls.” Schedules shift with development, too, with babies typically being larks compared to older children; adolescents in particular often are on a later schedule, which can make it difficult to accommodate early classes.

Thankfully even night owls generally can align their schedules with the rest of the world. However, at times they may find themselves stuck in a cycle of late to bed, late to rise that’s hard to get out of.  For example, college students may go to bed and wake up later and later during winter break, and need to shift their schedule to one that’s compatible with academics as the new semester approaches.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some recommendations for effectively getting on an earlier schedule.

1. Start in the morning.

Most people who try to change their sleep habits start by trying to go to bed earlier. Since sleep has a beginning and an end, it makes sense intuitively that we should adjust the start time. Unfortunately this approach is very likely to fail.

The problem is that you won’t have been up for enough hours in order to fall asleep easily, and so you’re likely to lie in bed for hours; the next morning you’ll probably stick to your typical wake time. There’s also a good chance you’ll get stressed out about not sleeping, which can lead to insomnia as your bed becomes associated with anxiety.

The better method is to think of being awake as having a start and an end, and adjusting when you start being awake. In other words, start by getting up earlier.

Ideally you can make this change gradually, so it’s not too difficult. For example, if you’ve been getting up at noon, start by setting an alarm for 11:30 AM. Gradually shift your wakeup time 15-30 minutes earlier as your body adjusts.

2. Get natural light early in the day.

One of the most effective ways to shift your 24-hour internal clock (or circadian rhythm) is to have exposure to bright light at the right time of day. For moving to an earlier schedule, that means getting natural light early in the day—preferably as soon as you wake up.

It doesn’t have to be for a long time (even 15 minutes helps), and you don’t need the Florida sun—being outside on an overcast day or sitting near a south-facing window can be enough. The light will signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, and will suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body and brain when to expect sleep.

On the flip side, avoid bright lights late in the day, like the glow of your tablet or phone, which can turn off melatonin production right when you need it.

3. Avoid caffeine later in the day.

If you’re getting up earlier, chances are you’re going to be sleepy at times during the day. The temptation to use caffeine to cope can be strong, especially around the mid-afternoon slump. However, it’s likely to keep you awake at bedtime, pushing your wakeup time later and delaying your ability to change your schedule.

What’s “later in the day”? A safe rule of thumb for most people is to avoid caffeine after lunchtime. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, it may need to be even earlier. (Of course, if your sleepiness is a safety concern—like while driving—do what you need to do.)

Instead of caffeine, try something like going for a brisk walk or doing calisthenics. If you’re able to go without it after lunch, you’re more likely to be ready for sleep come bedtime.

4. Be careful about naps.

Napping can have a similar effect to caffeine, making it harder to fall asleep when you’d like to. Our drive for sleep depends on how long we’ve been awake, and naps reduce that drive.

As with caffeine, the time of the nap is important; a 7:00 PM nap is going to be a bigger problem than one at 2:00 PM. If you do nap, aim to keep it short—no more than 20-30 minutes. And again, nap for safety reasons when needed.

5. Go to bed when sleepy.

Finally, be careful not to go to bed too early. It’s best if you feel like you could fall asleep relatively quickly once you lie down, to avoid spending a long period of time trying to wrestle your brain to sleep (see the first point, above).

On the other hand, you may be able to go to bed earlier than you think. Many people find that they get a “second wind” if they stay up past a certain hour, even if they were ready for bed earlier in the night. So take care not to push though sleepiness at night. By going to bed when your body is ready, you’ll have a better chance of getting up when your alarm goes off.

Some individuals on a late sleep schedule could have a condition like a Delayed Sleep Phase Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorder that may require consultation with a professional. As always, consult a qualified medical professional before making major changes to your sleep. 

‘Night Owl’ Brains May Not Function As Well for Daytime Work

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A new study finds that “night owls” — those whose internal body clock dictates they go to bed and wake up very late — appear to have fundamental differences in their brain function compared to “morning larks.”

This suggests that night owls could be disadvantaged by the constraints of a normal working day.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham discovered that night owls, who typically have an average bedtime of 2:30 am and a wake-up time of 10:15 am, have lower resting brain connectivity in many of the brain regions associated with the maintenance of consciousness.

Importantly, this reduced brain connectivity was tied to poorer attention, slower reactions and increased sleepiness throughout the hours of a typical working day.

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 12 percent of employees work night shifts. It is well-established that night-shift workers often face huge negative health consequences due to the constant disruption to sleep and body clocks.

However, this type of disruption can also result from being forced to fit into a societal 9-5 working day if those timings do not align with one’s natural biological rhythms. Since around 40-50 percent of the population identify as having a preference for later bedtimes and for getting up after 8:20 a.m., the researchers say much more work needs to be done to investigate any negative implications for this group.

“A huge number of people struggle to deliver their best performance during work or school hours they are not naturally suited to,” said lead researcher Dr. Elise Facer-Childs, from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health. “There is a critical need to increase our understanding of these issues in order to minimize health risks in society, as well as maximize productivity.”

For the study, the researchers looked at brain function at rest and linked it to the cognitive abilities of 38 individuals who were identified as either night owls or morning larks using physiological rhythms (melatonin and cortisol), continuous sleep/wake monitoring and questionnaires.

The participants underwent MRI scans and then completed a series of tasks, with testing sessions being undertaken at a range of different times during the day from 8  a.m. to 8 p.m. They were also asked to report on their levels of sleepiness.

Self-identified morning larks reported being least sleepy with their fastest reaction time during the early morning tests, which was significantly better than night owls. Night owls, however, were least sleepy and had their fastest reaction time at 8pm in the evening, although this was not significantly better than the larks, highlighting that night owls are most disadvantaged in the morning.

Interestingly, the brain connectivity in the regions that could predict better performance and lower sleepiness was much higher in larks at all time points, suggesting that the resting state brain connectivity of night owls is impaired throughout the whole day (8 a.m.-8 p.m.).

“This mismatch between a person’s biological time and social time, which most of us have experienced in the form of jet lag, is a common issue for night owls trying to follow a normal working day. Our study is the first to show a potential intrinsic neuronal mechanism behind why ‘night owls’ may face cognitive disadvantages when being forced to fit into these constraints,” said Facer-Childs, who is now based at the Monash Institute for Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences in Melbourne, Australia.

“To manage this, we need to get better at taking an individual’s personal body clock into account — particularly in the world of work. A typical day might last from 9  a.m.-5 p.m., but for a night owl, this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness and increased daytime sleepiness.”

“If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time we could go a long way towards maximizing productivity and minimizing health risks.”

The findings are published in the journal Sleep.

Source: University of Birmingham

Neuroscience Reveals How to Beat Morning Dread With Just 7 Words

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CREDIT: Getty Images

You know the feeling. The alarm goes off and before you’ve found the button, your brain is already in the shower, fretting over the day ahead. So much work to do. How will you get it all done? Will you do OK in that big presentation? So many meetings you aren’t looking forward to. You want to pick up your daughter after school but secretly know you hardly have the time to do so.

Dread kicks in. What’s wrong with my life?

This is the scenario neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett paints in an interesting TED talk she gave in December 2017 and in her book How Emotions Are Made.

The good news is that you don’t have to be held hostage by this spiraling A.M. anxiety. Barrett’s research points to a surprising finding about our emotions: they’re linked to physical sensations your body is feeling. That’s right, your brain reacts to physical sensations you’re feeling in the form of emotions.

In other words, you might be feeling that sense of dread as soon as you wake up because you simply didn’t sleep well, because you’re hungry, or because you feel dehydrated.

As Barrett explains:

“Your brain is searching to find an explanation for those sensations in your body that you experience as wretchedness. But those sensations might not be an indication that anything is wrong with your life.”

So before you go off the deep end with your morning mental swim, Barrett says ask yourself one question about what you’re feeling, just seven words:

“Could this have a purely physical cause?”

I tried this and found that quite often the answer is, yes. For me, I often wake up parched and, like most of us, have nights where I just didn’t sleep well. I paid attention to this and noticed whenever I felt that sense of dread, it went away as I woke up, drank water, and had breakfast.

But I’d like to add another seven-word question to the mix that you can use when you’re feeling that morning dread; in case your emotions aren’t just based on a physical sensation you’re experiencing in the moment.

“Could this be a signal for change?”

Some have called it Sunday Night Dread–that pit in your stomach you feel as you wind down on Sunday night and think about the day ahead tomorrow. A general unease and unhappiness nags at you. That’s the front line. Ground zero is when you wake up in the morning and the dread is instant and intensified as you face the immediate prospects of the day ahead.

Experiencing this over and over may be a sign that it’s time to make a change and engage in a different line of work or make dramatic changes at the job you’re in.

I experienced this towards the end of my corporate days. I ignored the feeling at first, and then for too long, frankly. Eventually, I let it trigger deep introspection, which ultimately led me to leave corporate behind and embark on my current entrepreneurial journey. I’m so glad I didn’t ignore the signals my morning routine was sending me.

So don’t accept that feeling of morning dread as “just the way it is”. Use Barrett’s question to discern if there’s an underlying physical cause based on what you’re feeling that morning. Use my question so that you’re not just brushing off that dread as you’re brushing your hair. Instead, look in the mirror and get honest with yourself.

Night Owls May Experience ‘Jet Lag’ On A Daily Basis

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Some people declare themselves to be morning larks, or early risers, and they effortlessly wake up at the crack of dawn and fall asleep earlier in the evening.

Others, however, are night owls, or evening people, who stay up until the early hours of the morning and wake up later in the day, if left to their own devices.

Previous research has shown that the night owls face some health risks due to their daily rhythms. These include a tendency towards poorer dietary habits, which, in turn, can increase the risk of metabolic conditions, such as diabetes.

Now, a study led by investigators from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom has found out how activity patterns in the brains of night owls are different from those of morning people. The study also highlights how these differences can impact their lives and levels of productivity in a world that typically favors early risers.

“A huge number of people struggle to deliver their best performance during work or school hours they are not naturally suited to,” notes lead researcher Dr. Elise Facer-Childs, previously of Birmingham University and now based at the Monash Institute for Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences in Melbourne, Australia.

“There is a critical need to increase our understanding of these issues in order to minimize health risks in society, as well as maximize productivity,” she emphasizes.

The researchers have now published their findings in a study paper featured in the journal SLEEP.

Brain activity in night owls

For this study, the research team recruited 38 healthy participants. They divided the volunteers into two groups, putting 16 early risers into one group and 22 late sleepers into the second.

The researchers split the participants into these two groups based on their melatonin and cortisol circadian rhythms — the natural circulation of these two hormones affect sleep and waking cycles.

The researchers monitored the participants’ sleeping and waking patterns, and the volunteers filled in questionnaires about their rhythms. On average, late sleepers went to bed at 2:30 a.m. and woke up at 10:15 a.m.

To assess brain activity patterns, the investigators asked the volunteers to undergo MRI scans. The researchers also tested the participants’ performance on various tasks they undertook at different times throughout the day to see how sleep-wake cycles affected daily functioning.

The team noticed a difference in brain activity patterns between the two groups, namely that night owls had lower resting brain connectivity in brain areas that scientists primarily associate with maintaining a state of consciousness. They correlated this with shorter attention spans, as well as slower reactions and lower energy levels.

Early risers performed better and had faster reaction times during morning tasks. They also declared themselves as being much less sleepy at that time.

On the contrary, as expected, late sleepers performed best and experienced the fastest reaction times around 8:00 p.m. However, even at the time when they were at their peak performance, night owls did not do much better than their early rising peers.

This suggests that throughout the day — or from around 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. — resting-state brain connectivity is affected in late sleepers, adversely impacting their productivity.

Social expectations ‘could be more flexible’

Dr. Facer-Childs likens the night owls’ state throughout the day to a form of constant jet lag, emphasizing that this may have a significant effect on their well-being in the long run.

This mismatch between a person’s biological time and social time — which most of us have experienced in the form of jet lag — is a common issue for night owls trying to follow a normal working day.”

Dr. Elise Facer-Childs

“Our study is the first to show a potential intrinsic, neuronal mechanism behind why night owls may face cognitive disadvantages when being forced to fit into these constraints,” she adds.

For this reason, the researcher argues that societies need to take a long, hard look at their organizational structures, chiefly in terms of working hours and how to become more accommodating to people’s individuals needs. This flexibilty should mean that night owls can put their best foot forward while avoiding adverse health outcomes.

“To manage this [situation], we need to get better at taking an individual’s body clock into account — particularly in the world of work,” Dr. Facer-Childs argues.

“A typical day might last from 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., but for a night owl, this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness, and increased daytime sleepiness,” she warns.

She further advises that “If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time, we could go a long way toward maximizing productivity and minimizing health risks.”

Why Being A Night Owl Might Be Damaging Your Mental Health

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woman sleeping in bed

GETTY IMAGESCAIAIMAGE/PAUL BRADBURY

Not only is being a ‘night owl’ annoying when you have to get up for work the next day, it apparently affects more than just your body clock – it has a big impact on mental health, too.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, people who are naturally early risers are less likely to develop mental health problems than those who go to bed late and sleep in.

The large-scale genetics study, conducted at the University of Exeter, used data from 250,000 research participants signed up to the private genetics company 23andMe, and 450,000 people in the UK Biobank study. Participants were asked whether they were a “morning person” or an “evening person”, and their genomes were analysed, revealing certain genes people shared that appeared to influence sleep patterns.

Lead study author Samuel Jones, a research fellow studying the genetics of sleeping patterns at the University of Exeter, said:

“Part of the reason why some people are up with the lark while others are night owls is because of differences in both the way our brains react to external light signals and the normal functioning of our internal clocks.

“The large number of people in our study means we have provided the strongest evidence to date that ‘night owls’ are at higher risk of mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and lower mental wellbeing, although further studies are needed to fully understand this link.”

The results found uncovered an apparent causal link between being a night owl and being more prone to depression, anxiety and schizophrenia – with evening types 10% more likely to develop the latter condition.

However, they found no increased risk of obesity and diabetes among night owls, despite what some earlier studies have said.

Samuel Jones said the conclusion is that night owls are more likely to have to work against their natural body clock in school and the world of work, which may have negative consequences on their mindset.

So, how can you go about adjusting your sleep schedule? Hope Bastine, sleep psychologist for high-tech mattress maker Simba, says we need to identify our individual sleep needs first.

“Experiment with your productivity and your performance rate and adjusting your time schedule to that,” she told Cosmopolitan UK. “Find a rhythm, a schedule, a lifestyle that really suits you, and that makes you feel in harmony with yourself. Make sure your sleep schedule is as non-negotiable as possible.”

Putting sleep first? Done.

Follow Abbi on Instagram.

Why ‘Night Owls’ Struggle With Working 9 To 5

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“Night owls”, aka people who are late to bed and late to rise, may be at a disadvantage in jobs with typical working hours of 9am to 5pm, a study has found.

As anyone who has ever struggled to drag themselves out of bed will know, some of us just aren’t morning people.

In fact, around half of us (between 40% and 50%) are “night owls”, who prefer going to sleep later and getting up after 8:20, while others are “morning larks” who prefer early bedtimes and earlier wake-ups.

Morning larks constantly outperformed night owls in tests throughout the day. Photo: Getty Images

And while there is a proven genetic basis for the night owl/morning lark theory, many traditional workplaces still insist on working hours of roughly 9am to 5pm – which makes life especially difficult for night owls, according to the latest research.

The researchers took 38 people who identified as either morning larks or night owls and assessed them between the hours of 8am to 8pm, asking them to do various tasks and report on their tiredness levels.

Morning larks reported as least sleepy and had their quickest reaction times during the morning tests.

Meanwhile, while night owls performed better in the evening (8pm) compared to in the morning – but they did not perform significantly better than the larks even at this later time.

What’s more, at all time points throughout the day, the morning larks outperformed the evening owls in tests – suggesting the latter group continue to be at a disadvantage throughout the day.

What does this mean for night owls?

The findings “could be partly driven by the fact that night owls tend to be compromised throughout their lives”, according to lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs, of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health.

“Night owls during school have to get up earlier, then they go into work and they have to get up earlier, so they’re constantly having to fight against their preferences and their innate rhythms.”

Dr Facer-Childs added: “A typical day might last from 09:00 to 17:00, but for a night owl this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness, and increased daytime sleepiness.”

She suggested more flexible working hours could benefit society as a whole.

“If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time, we could go a long way towards maximising productivity and minimising health risks.”

And it seems as if some schools may be catching on to the benefit of later start times, with British MPs debating calls for the school day to start at 10am to help tired teenagers.

Morning people don’t just have an easier time of it at school and at work – they also benefit from a health perspective.

Those who peak in the early hours of the day are less at risk of breast cancer compared to their ‘evening’ counterparts, according to a study published last year.

Is Waking Up Early Good or Bad?

See BBC Article Here
By Bryan Lufkin

Being successful means waking up early – or so we’re constantly told.

It makes you more productive. Celebrities and CEOs do it. You’ll be healthier and happier. You’ll feel in control of your life.

But despite the deluge of such stories, waking up at an ungodly hour isn’t some sort of magic productivity hack that will solve your time-management problems. For some, it can even be counterproductive.

The trick is finding a routine that fits your situation. Here are some timeless tips that can help you cut through the noise and figure out a wake-up strategy that’s right for you.

What are the benefits of getting up early?

There can be lots – at least, according to all the people who get up at daybreak.

(Credit: Getty Images)

US actor Mark Wahlberg made headlines last year when he said he wakes up at 2:30 am (Credit: Getty Images)

Many people cite fewer distractions during the early hours: kids or anyone else in your home are probably still asleep, for example, and you’ll probably be receiving fewer texts or emails at that time.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he rises at 03:45 to start checking email in California before his East Coast colleagues can (which, at 06:45, is still quite early in its own right). Oprah Winfrey says she gets up at 06:02 every day for reflection, meditation and exercise before starting work at 09:00. The most extreme case might be Mark Wahlberg, who wakes up at 02:30 to exercise, play golf, pray and recover in a -100C cryochamber.

You might be more alert and have better cognitive ability in the afternoon

Studies have also suggested early rising and success might be linked. People who wake up early are more in sync with the traditional corporate schedule and tend to have more proactive personalities, which might lead to better grades in school or higher wages on the job.

If getting up early doesn’t come naturally, there are some strategies you can try. Early exercise and exposing yourself to light as soon as possible can help stimulate metabolism and body temperature, which gets you going more quickly.

Yet the early alarm clock may not work for everyone – it turns out there are plenty of caveats around trying to become a morning person if it’s not an easy fit.

Is getting up early for everyone?

No. Whether or not waking up early actually makes you more productive could be in your genes.

There’s been lots of research about how some people are biologically more likely to feel more alert in the morning, while others are at their best at night. You might be more alert and have better cognitive ability in the afternoon, for instance.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications provided further evidence that this is the case. Looking at data from over 700,000 people, researchers found over 350 genetic factors that could influence whether people feel more naturally energised either in the morning or in the evening. The large sample size makes the study the biggest of its kind so far, though further research is needed to confirm the results.

So, if you don’t naturally feel alert in the morning but decide to wake up early anyway, you might be sabotaging your actual peak performance times.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Humans aren’t built to go to sleep with glowing distractions, which can cause sleep problems (Credit: Getty Images)

Of course, people may have personal reasons for making an early start. “There may be other factors at play, such as enthusiasm and high job satisfaction, which facilitate eagerness to get up earlier and get to work,” says Marilyn Davidson, professor emerita of work psychology at the University of Manchester.

Parents with young children or workers with non-traditional hours may also have no choice about what time they start the day.

Getting up early doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success at the office

The main point: the mere fact of getting up early doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success at the office. In fact, depending on the person, it could end up having a negative effect.

Can getting up early ever be counterproductive?

Yes. Especially if you don’t normally wake up super early and are trying to hop on some kind of productivity bandwagon.

“People say: ‘Oh, this CEO is doing his 05:00 regimen, I’m going to hop on and do this on Mondays and Fridays,’” says Rachel Salas, an associate professor of neurology who specialises in sleep medicine and sleep disorders at Johns Hopkins University in the US. “But that’s not consistent [sleep]. You’re messing with your system.”

Salas says that getting a full night’s sleep and getting the same amount of sleep at the same time each night are both important. An even worse scenario? If you’re actually reducing sleep to become an early riser.

Sacrificing sleep means you may be hit by the many negative effects of sleep deprivation, including moodiness, poor concentration, potential weight gain, anxiety, increased risk of heart disease and higher blood pressure.

So if early rising means cutting sleep, don’t do it. Salas says she’s had patients come into her clinic who got by on reduced sleep in their 20s and 30s, but struggled as they got older, their lifestyles changed and they had kids.

“If you start early, you will need to stop work earlier too, so there may be no real benefits,” points out Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, England. She thinks that high-profile businesspeople who follow up an early start with long hours in the office or a late-night presence on email have a damaging effect.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Famous CEOs and celebrities frequently brag about early rising – but is it really right for everyone? (Credit: Getty Images)

There’s something particularly pernicious about the bragging of a CEO chronicling their early starts. The New York Times recently coined the term ‘performative workaholism’, referring to workaholics flaunting early wake-ups and long hours as a badge of honour, which can end up setting a bad example.

“CEOs are important role models for staff,” Kinman says. “And seeing this behaviour as desirable is just irresponsible.”

What should you do?

Experts say to experiment. Don’t listen to vocal thought-leaders or LinkedIn influencers – figure out what works best for you. And, hey, maybe that does mean waking up super early after all.

Pay attention to when you feel most tired and most awake. When on holiday, make a note of the times you fall asleep and wake up naturally. Try to sync your schedule to those times, as that’s how you’ll tap into most of your natural energy for the day ahead.

When it comes to the workplace, experts suggest an approach that accommodates everyone’s habits to bring out the best in them. Susan Stehlik, director of New York University’s management communications programme, suggests offices and teams use a technique called “appreciative inquiry”.

Pay attention to when you feel most tired and most awake.

This means that the team sits down at the very initial stages of a project and brings up their individual needs, schedules and preferences right out of the gate to the group – ideally, so that the group can adjust accordingly.

“That way you bring up things [like]: ‘I have kids, I have to be up at 05:00 every day and have to get them to day-care and can’t stay late’,” Stehlik says. “‘Here are my vulnerabilities right now, and here are my strengths right now.’ It’s mostly teamwork.”

If team leaders are flexible, you could agree to have an early riser start checking email or working earlier, and then allow them to knock off earlier in the afternoon. That way, workers can enjoy the benefits of early rising, but avoid burnout.

You’re also applying the practices of early rising to those to whom it’s applicable or useful, instead of arbitrarily getting everyone up early to chase the illusion of increased productivity.

In the end, though, it’s all about taking sleep advice from non-experts with a grain of salt. It’s about knowing your unique sleep preferences and the times of the day (or night) that you feel at your peak. And above all, it’s getting adequate – and consistent – amounts of sleep.

For some people, forcing yourself to wake up before the chickens because that’s what your business idol does may not be the smartest or healthiest way to start the day.

“Don’t do it,” Kinman says. “Unless you are a true morning person.”

Bryan Lufkin is BBC Capital’s features writer. Follow him on Twitter @bryan_lufkin.

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