This is Why You’re Most Productive at Night

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If you hardly feel inclined to get work done during the day as much as you do at night, you likely feel like a night owl in a world of early birds. If this bothers you, you’re not alone — this is not necessarily because of lack of trying or procrastination. You’ve probably tried to regulate your schedule the conventional way but that doesn’t do it for you.

And despite our society’s love affair with the idea of early rising, not everyone thrives in the morning.

Is this normal?

It is.

In fact, struggling to be productive during typical work hours is normal—turns out, our body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, controls when we are most alert and productive. 

As writer Dana Leventhal points out  “No matter how inconvenient it is, for some people, optimal mental clarity directly correlates with the stillness of the night. Fighting it might mean fighting an integral part of the way your brain functions, so maybe just keep doing what you do. The smug morning people will always exist. You and I probably won’t be awake to have to deal with them.”

Our bodies have built-in clocks called circadian rhythms, which regulate when we feel sleepy or awake. These rhythms also determine if we’re more inclined to be early birds or night owls. This preference, known as our chronotype, influences when we naturally feel sleepy or alert throughout the day. Studies show that night owls often struggle with attention, reaction time, and feeling sleepy during typical work or school hours. 

According to Dr. Elise Facer-Childs from the Centre for Human Brain Health at the University of Birmingham, many people find it challenging to perform their best during times that don’t match their natural rhythms. Per research, about 40% of people fall into this category. As we age, our chronotype can change slightly, affecting our sleep patterns and productivity.

For example, children and older adults often prefer mornings, while teenagers and young adults may lean towards evenings. Additionally, chronotypes aren’t just limited to being early birds or night owls, some people might feel most alert in the afternoon or evening, or their preferences may shift over time.

Read:  Why Some People are Drawn to Sad Music and Others Can't Relate

What Factors Lead to Differences in Circadian Rhythms Among Individuals?

Why do some people naturally prefer staying up late while others are early birds? Research involving nearly 700,000 people in the UK suggests it’s a mix of our genes and environment that shape our sleep patterns. But for some, being a night owl is simply a personal choice.

In the past, the hustle and bustle around us hindered our focus and production, making it hard for many people to focus. And now there’s the streams of texts, phone calls, emails, and social media notifications that make it challenging to concentrate.

Although these distractions still continue, they’re now mostly digital rather than in-person. Now this shift allows people to take short breaks from the online noise by stepping away from their screens and focusing on their tasks. For example, Mictian Carax, a then college student from Brooklyn, prefers writing at night because it’s quieter and offers a sense of solitude, away from the busy New York City streets.

Along with social stress, things like bright lights, office noise, and smells from food can also be distracting. This can affect anyone, especially those who have high sensitivity to sensory input. Also some people with ADHD are said to find it easier to stay up and focus at night when there are fewer distractions around.

Sadly, the typical nine-to-five work schedule doesn’t fit well with the natural rhythms of about 40% of people, and it’s unlikely to change soon. 

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