Wednesday, 5 November 2014

You've heard of "Owls" and "Larks", now sleep scientists propose two more chronotypes

For many years psychologists have divided people into two types based on their sleeping habits. There are Larks who rise early, feel sprightly in the morning, and retire to bed early; and Owls, who do the opposite, preferring to get up late and who come alive in the evening.

Have you ever thought that you don't fit either pattern; that you're neither a morning nor evening person? Even in good health, maybe you feel sluggish most of the time, or conversely, perhaps you feel high energy in the morning and evening. If so, you'll relate to a new study published by Arcady Putilov and his colleagues at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The researchers invited 130 healthy people (54 men) to a sleep lab and kept them awake for just over 24 hours. The participants were asked to refrain from coffee and alcohol, and several times during their stay they filled out questionnaires about how wakeful or dozy they were feeling. They also answered questions about their sleep patterns and wakeful functioning during the preceding week.

By analysing the participants' energy levels through the 24 period and their reports about their functioning during the previous week, Putilov and his team identified four distinct groups. Consistent with past research, there were Larks (29 of them), who showed higher energy levels on the first and second mornings at 9AM, but lower levels when tested at 9PM and midnight; and there were Owls (44 of them), who showed the opposite pattern. The Larks also reported rising earlier and going to bed earlier through the previous week, whereas the Owls showed the opposite pattern. There was an average two-hour difference between the sleep and wake cycles of these two groups.

The researchers also identified two further chronotypes. There was a "high energetic" group of 25 people who reported feeling relatively sprightly in both the morning and evening; and a "lethargic" group of 32 others, who described feeling relatively dozy in both the morning and evening. Unlike the Owls and Larks, these two groups didn't show differences in terms of their time to bed and time of waking - their habits tended to lie mid-way between the Larks and Owls.

The researchers said their results support the idea of there being "four diurnal types, and each of these types can ... be differentiated from any of three other types on self-scorings of alertness-sleepiness levels in the course of 24-hours sleep deprivation."

We already have bird names for morning and evening people - Owls and Larks. Part of the title of this new paper is "A search for two further 'bird species'". I was hoping the authors might propose two new bird names for their high energy and lethargic categories, but sadly they don't. What about Swift for the high energy category? I'm not sure about a lethargic bird. It's over to you - any ideas? [Readers on Twitter have so far proposed Dodo and Pelican].


Putilov, A., Donskaya, O., & Verevkin, E. (2015). How many diurnal types are there? A search for two further “bird species” Personality and Individual Differences, 72, 12-17 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.08.003

--further reading--
Owls get poorer school grades than larks
Early risers are more proactive than evening people

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Research Digest said...

How about Hummers (hummingbirds) and Gulls

Research Digest said...

Much like the human potential guru mesmerizing a conference room filled
with devotees that they've undergone some miraculous change, psych
clients are equally suggestible.

They want to feel better, and that
often means compliantly pleasing their therapists. Clients commits much
time, money and emotion to therapy and easily can fool themselves of great epiphanies that in fact create no substantial change.

Psychotherapy is a great euphoriant. But like a coffee high, the effect well might only last the morning.

Research Digest said...

I'm still looking for info on folks like me. Extreme night owls, maybe? When left to my own devices, I generally sleep from about 6am to 2pm.

Research Digest said...

I too have thought about Dodo. It could be a Sloth, though.

Research Digest said...

This is not surprising to me, based on experience with therapy. In my experience, therapists often don't ask about what brought you to therapy, and just start working on what they think you need -- no checking to see if what they are doing makes sense to you. It was not uncommon for a therapist to try to reassure me of the opposite of what I was concerned about, or give me permission for the opposite of what I was trying to give myself permission for.

I recall trying to tell one therapist that I seemed to be getting worse, and I was worried about it. The first time, she said, "That's because you are facing difficult things about yourself." The second time, she said, "My clients' pain is precious to me."

In my experience, therapists don't discuss; they just state their opinion or feelings.

Research Digest said...

Hummingbirds and Kakapos, what else? ;-)

Research Digest said...

Hi there. I encourage you to look for information on Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (or Syndrome). What you describe sounds exactly like it to me! There are also groups addressing DSPD/DSPS on Facebook, and they are very welcoming. Best of luck to you! :)

Research Digest said...

Will do. Thanks!

Research Digest said...

Interesting read. I always thought there had to be a mid ground because there are so many people who don't call them self early birds or night owls. (I'm an ow.l or Not a dawn but dusk lady)

Research Digest said...

Not *generally* considered a bird species, your sloth. :)

Research Digest said...

I'm lethargic!

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