Early Bird, Night Owl, or an In-Between Hummingbird? Here’s What Time You Should Plan to Be Most Productive

Have you ever seen a dog get overly excited and dash through the house with a case of the “zoomies”? That’s how I feel, every night around 11 p.m. No matter how exhausted I was during the day, I find myself filled with energy once the sun goes down. Of course, when my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. the next morning, I feel like I could sleep for four more hours. I’ve always dreamed of being a 5 a.m. exerciser, but it truly feels like I’m fighting with my body when I attempt it… and it turns out, I might be. Scientists who study the sleep-wake cycle classify individuals into three groups: night owls, morning larks, and the in-between hummingbirds. By figuring out which group you fall into, you can set yourself up for success by figuring out your “prime productivity” window.

While I’m a firm believer that you truly can form new habits with enough commitment and consistency, I also believe that there’s something to be said for embracing your own unique wiring. According to scientists, there are a few factors that influence your sleeping habits, including your circadian rhythm (specifically the length of your wake-sleep cycle) and your genetics. (So, if you’re getting judgmental stares from early morning gym goers while you’re rubbing sleep out of your eyes at 11 a.m., feel free to yell, “It’s in my genes!”)


Morning Larks

You are probably a morning lark if you…

  • Naturally wake up before or around 6 a.m.
  • Say breakfast is your favorite meal and drink little to no coffee
  • Start getting drowsy around dinnertime
  • Like to hit the hay around 9 p.m.


Night Owls

You are probably a night owl if you…

  • Need an alarm clock to get out of bed (and usually snooze it approximately one to 17 times)
  • Would prefer to sleep in until 10 a.m. at least
  • Feel most alert around dinnertime
  • Say dinner is your favorite meal and rely on caffeine throughout the day
  • Would prefer to stay up until around 3 a.m.


In-Between Hummingbirds

You are an in-between hummingbird if you…

  • Read the above descriptions and thought they were both way too extreme
  • Find a 5 a.m. wake up and a 3 a.m. bedtime equally painful
  • Would happily go to bed between 10 – 11 p.m. and wake up between 7 – 8 a.m. daily

According to John Medina in his book Brain Rules, about 30% of the population would be classified as either a night owl or a morning lark. That means 70% of us are hummingbirds! However, most of us would be considered hummingbirds with either lark or owl tendencies. We can use this information to figure out when we should plan on getting the most done, whether that’s checking things off our to-do list, finishing homework, studying for a big exam, or completing our college apps.


If you’re a morning lark (or a hummingbird who leans toward morning lark)…

You will likely feel most productive and alert in the hours leading up to lunch time. If you’ve got lots of homework on your plate, your best bet is to rise, shine, and buckle down for the first half of your day. In college, you’ll thrive in those morning classes most of your peers avoid like the plague!

Try as hard as you can to not procrastinate on things until the evening time. As a morning lark, you will experience a steady decrease in mental stamina and focus in the late afternoon and evening – so hit the hay instead of the books once the sun goes down!


If you’re a night owl (or a hummingbird who leans toward night owl)…

You will likely be most productive and alert in the evenings. As opposed to your morning lark friends, you may write your best papers and retain the most information after everyone else in your house has gone to bed. In college, night owls might do best by avoiding the early morning classes and instead opting for afternoon/evening options. Fun fact: research has shown that night owls are, on average, more creative, because they “live outside the norm” and often spend those quiet hours learning new skills and information.

Of course, society isn’t always set up for night owls. Even if your body clock prefers sleep from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m., you may have to work hard to adapt to an earlier bedtime and earlier wakeup for academic and professional obligations. Nevertheless, you still may find that evening is your best time to work.

Regardless of whether you’re a morning lark, a night owl, or a happy medium hummingbird, learning how to make the most of those peak productivity hours is key. The Enrichery’s executive functioning mini classes focus on the study skills needed for academic success. Students meet two to five times per week for 60-minute sessions to develop study skills systems that keep them on track – no matter what time of day you’re getting it done!