Night owls and early birds

August 02, 2011, 6:59 PM GMT+0

Almost half of British people say that they’re on better form during the morning than at any other time of day, our poll has revealed. Just over a quarter of people believe themselves to function best during the evening, while only one in five says that the afternoon is their prime time.

The number of those at their best in the morning seems to increase with respondents’ age, while the proportion of night owls is highest among the younger generation.

  • 43% of British people say that they’re at their best in the morning
  • While 27% are on better form in the evening or night, and 20% feel that they function best in the afternoon
  • Preference for mornings increases with age, as 58% of those aged 60 or over deem the early hours to be their best time of day, compared to 22% of 18 to 24 year olds
  • By the same token, evenings and nights seem to work best for the younger generation, with 38% of 18 to 24 year olds citing this as their best time of day, compared to just 20% of over 60s

Our poll shows that those among the younger generation are more likely to be night owls, and while many may have been berated for their love of a lie-in, a study in 2009 claimed that late risers are cleverer and richer than their early bird counterparts.

In their experiment, scientists set morning larks and night owls in opposition, presenting them with a task designed to measure their reaction and attention times. Both groups achieved similarly well at the task shortly after getting up, but ten hours into their day night owls triumphed, being both quicker and more alert at the task.

Late to bed and late to rise

Famous night owls include Charles Darwin, Adolf Hitler and wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the latter of whom regularly went to bed at 4am and rose late, having a nap in the afternoon.

But Churchill’s night owl tendencies appear to have been too much for his American counterpart; it has been noted that after each of Churchill's visits American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was so exhausted he had to sleep 10 hours a night for three consecutive nights to recover.