Discussion on the effects of sleep deprivation and different sleep patterns frequently shows the importance of having a well-rested mind in order to function properly throughout the entire day.

Now, researchers from the Higher School of Economics and Oxford University conducted an experiment that may shed some light as to why early risers perform more poorly at night compared to night owls.

In the comprehensive study, the researchers uncover the distinctive differences between the two chronotypes and offer possible reasoning behind their findings.

Early Birds vs Night Owls

Twenty-six volunteers, all of whom are self-reported good sleepers with a mean age of 25, participated in the study and completed The Horne and Östberg Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire to determine whether the participant is leaning more toward morningness (early bird) or eveningness (night owl).

They were then each provided with a one-week sleep diary to measure their sleep patterns and were required to have more than 6 hours of sleep each day leading to the day of the sessions.

Two sessions were performed on the day of the 18-hour experiment: the morning session at 7:30 am and the early morning session at 2:00 am after 18 hours of sleep deprivation. In each session, participants performed the Attention Network Test (ANT) to measure their raw reaction time and executive control.

On the first session at 7:30 am, researchers found no significant differences in the performances of the early birds and night owls, but on the early morning session at 2:00 am, researchers were surprised to find that the night owls' reaction time had lagged behind.

However, further study of the data revealed that although the early birds finished the task at hand more efficiently, their effectiveness and accuracy suffered. In contrast, the night owls took their time with the task at hand and sacrificed their efficiency for accuracy.

Facing The Challenge Of Sleep Deprivation

Overall, researchers found that individuals leaning toward eveningness preserve their ability for conflict resolution better when faced with sustained wakefulness, while individuals leaning toward morningness are more vulnerable to executive control deficiencies after sleep deprivation.

Researchers believe that their findings could be useful for further research and consider their results "preliminary" to future studies with a possibly larger sample and participants from the extreme chronotypes rather than the full chronotype spectrum.

While considered preliminary by the researchers themselves, the information gathered by the study could be very relevant to many individuals especially those who work at odd times of the day, and for those with careers that challenge individuals with sleep deprivation, such as emergency workers and nurses in hospitals.

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