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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Owls versus larks: scientists figure out who is more efficient at work

In the evening chronotype, sleep deficit accumulates over time, which leads to health problems and decreased performance.

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

People who prefer to stay up late are twice as likely to lower their performance at work relative to those who are more early risers. And people who start their workday earlier tend to be more productive since exposure to daylight plays a very important role in the development of professional and personal tasks.

Scientists from the University of Oulu in Finland have found that owls are about half as efficient at work as early risers, and also retire earlier due to disability.

As you know, there are two chronotypes of people: morning “larks” and evening “owls”, as well as an intermediate variant. Finnish researchers decided to evaluate which of them is more efficient at work and healthy at age. 

For the analysis, they used data from the continuous population-based study NFBC1966, which included 12,058 children – 6169 boys and 5889 girls, born in Northern Finland in 1966. 

When the participants in the study turned 46, they completed a survey in which they assessed their work performance and health status, and also characterized their lifestyle. Based on these data, scientists have concluded their natural chronotype. 

The final analysis included 2,672 men and 3,159 women for whom full information was available. As of 2012, they were all working. For the next four years, they were monitored to find out which of them had stopped working and received a disability pension.

During this period, 84 people retired due to disability, and 17 people died. 

Larks, intermediate chronotype and owls were 46%, 44% and 10% among men and 44%, 44% and 12% among women.

As it turned out, “owls”, in comparison with “larks”, had the worst scores in all parameters related to sleep and health, reported lack of sleep and insomnia, and were more often left without family and work. 

Already at the age of 46, 28% of owls among men and 24% of owls among women indicated that they did not do their job well. 

In “larks” or people with an intermediate chronotype, this percentage was about two times lower. 

Also, the “owls” had a higher risk of early retirement due to disability. In men of this chronotype, retirement due to disability was observed three times more often than among their peers – “larks”. 

The authors of the study emphasized that they did not aim to find the reasons for the differences between the chronotypes, but suggested that the main one is the accumulating sleep deficit in “owls”. 

Larks tend to go to bed early and get the proper amount of sleep on a regular basis. The “owls” usually accumulate a lack of sleep, and they catch up on lost sleep, getting enough sleep on weekends. 

As a result, there is a constant disruption of the circadian rhythm, which is directly related to the deterioration of health and cognitive performance. 

The chronotype is largely determined at the genetic level, in addition, it is influenced by environmental factors. Scientists urge not to change your chronotype, but to organize the daily routine so as to get enough sleep.

An article with the results of a long-term study was published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

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