Everyone has a noticeably different rhythm of sleeping and waking- known as the circadian rhythm– which is why psychologists divide people into two general chronotypes: morning larks and night owls. Morning larks rise early, are most active in the morning, grow tired more quickly by late afternoon or early evening and go to bed early. By contrast, night owls need a few hours to fully awake in the morning, become active in the evenings, and sleep late. They tend to be novelty seekers and have personalities that are consistent with outgoing extroverts. Most children start out as morning larks. If you have children, you know how it feels when they wake you up in the early morning. When they turn into teenagers, they become night owls, going to late-night parties, and this continues until their early twenties when they turn back to morning larks once again or sometimes stay as night owls.
Personality chronotypes depend on how alertness and concentration levels vary during the day, or what is known as the concentration curve. Concentration is defined as the amount of time you can focus on a single thought or mental activity. Concentration levels vary depending on who you are with, what you are doing, how interesting it is, and whether you had a nice bottle of wine for lunch. But, more importantly, concentration and alertness depend on the time of day. For morning larks, alertness and concentration levels start high and decline as the day progresses, while for night owls, this happens in reverse: alertness and concentration levels start low and rise steadily with the passing hours.
So, how does our personality chronotype affect our perception of time?
Alertness levels vary during the day for each chronotype, and since the perceived speed of time depends on alertness and arousal levels, then it follows that the speed of time changes for each chronotype as the day goes by. Scientists have confirmed that the internal clock of morning-type people generally runs faster than that of evening-types. For the morning-type person, alertness levels are normally at their highest in the morning and then starts to drop towards the afternoon after a decent lunch, until it reaches its lowest levels in the evening. As the alertness levels drop, the brain’s information processing speed decreases and the internal clock slows down, so time intervals shrink, and time appears to pass quickly. For the morning person, the afternoon is often over in a flash. With the feeling of abundant time early in the day, morning larks tend to be more productive and can achieve more in the morning than in the afternoon. Therefore, an hour in the morning will generally feel longer than an hour in the afternoon.
The opposite happens for a night-type person. Alertness levels are low in the morning and start to increase towards the afternoon, reaching their highest level in the evening. This means that the brain’s information processing and internal clock start to speed up as the day goes by, so time intervals stretch and time gradually slows down as the day passes. For night owls, mornings fly by and afternoons drag, which makes them more productive in the second half of the day.
Do you want to find out your chronotype? Check out the Speed of Time Online Test