Most people can be neatly divided into two camps according to when they function at their best. When is your yawn so loud it’s obscene…early morning or late at night? Enter the early birds and night owls.

I was talking to someone the other day…well, they were talking to me and I was stifling yawns one after the other. It was early in the morning and someone had the nerve to wake me up to ask me something or other on the phone. Admittedly, the sun was already comfortably in the sky and the hour could hardly be called rude, but to me it may as well have been the crack of dawn. You see, when it comes to time and when I’m at my best, I am most definitely a night owl. The guy on the other side seemed an early bird type…all chipper and well into his stride that morning. I am quite certain he thought he was talking to a zombie.

An early bird is defined as a person who rises, arrives or does their thing before the usual or expected time. They are the ones who love to see the sunrise each morning as the birds tweet and are full of beans at, literally, the crack of dawn. They relish the morning with zest and vigour. Then there are those of us on the other side of humanity known as night owls, who are habitually active or wakeful at night. We resist the morning with all our might, preferring to be slumbered in our beds like groggy vampires resisting the light. Let night fall, and the vampi…night owls come alive, finally and with a warm, knowing embrace of the magic of electric and neon light.

It has bothered me enormously since I was a teenager that society is pretty much geared to early birds. Yes, it is! Sure, there is nightlife to be enjoyed and 24/7 living today, but the world remains Early Bird Central. School invariably starts early for even the youngest of children, and as adults most of our work and careers involve being up bright and early in the morning, caffeined to the hilt and expected to instantly be on full alert. Sit in any corporate office at 9am and watch the birds and owls stream in. The early birds zip around, full of (irritating) energy and oomph for the day. The night owls lumber around, scowling and hating every person in sight and feeling, quite literally, like death warmed up. And invariably I and my owl brethren are made to feel like nothing but lazy grumps just because we don’t feel like attending bloody meetings at 9:15am.

There are those that claim to comfortably be both, able to be as perky at 6am as they are full of life at midnight. Obviously, these are people who must need little sleep. Winston Churchill was said to sleep no more than four hours a night. But very few people can pull that off. In my opinion, the rest of these bird-owl ‘hybrids’ are either freaks of nature, Manchurian candidates or aliens in our midst. These hybrids tend to be very smug about their ability to be both early riser and late night reveller. But I have enjoyed catching out quite a few of these so-called hybrids, who in no time are yawning their brains out at 11pm, even though they protest that they are as much a night owl as I am. You liar!

Jokes aside, listening to our body clocks is of paramount importance. Most people have a feel for when they function best, especially at critical times when high functionality is most needed, for example, preparing a presentation, studying for an exam or interview and the like. Of course, we can’t always pick and choose when we can function at our best, but it’s a sin not to at least try and, where possible, live one’s life accordingly. For example, I know that one of the reasons I am most drawn to being a writer and working freelance is my ability to do more at night and not be such a prisoner to early bird hours. Your choices possibly too are bird/owl-related.

Even dating and relationships can be influenced by your bird/owl instincts. I have never seriously dated an early bird – and I only recently realized that! All that perkiness first thing in the mind would eventually grate my nerves, whilst who the hell can put up with my notorious morning grouchiness but a fellow night owl, right? Obviously, we all need to live together and make the most of our 24-hour cycles. Early birds may make concessions in order to have a good time on the weekend, whilst night owls make concessions in order to work or have a family life. But perhaps in the end it really is a case of birds or owls of a feather do indeed flock together?