Which are Better – Morning People or Night People?

It’s 5:13 AM.  I’m sitting by an open window and it’s dark outside.  The air is cool; the coffee is hot.  In a few minutes, the horizon will hint at a sunrise.

It doesn’t get much better than this, I think.

I love mornings.  Even on the days I’m not working, I’m up early.  I don’t want to miss the stillness, and the “firsts” – the first sounds of birds waking, the first rays of light, the first movement in the streets. 

It feels like a fresh start.  No matter what happened yesterday, morning gives me hope.  It’s like a “do-over.” It has the potential to be a great day.

My daughter, Sara is also a morning person (though it’s tougher now that she has three little kids).  When she was growing up, we’d get up early every Saturday morning, sit on the couch before anyone else was up, and talk for hours.  It was our time. 

It was awesome. 

Not everyone shares my joy, however.

morning and nightMy son, Tim is a night person.  It’s tougher now, because he manages a restaurant and often has to be there between 5:00 and 6:00 AM to open the store.

When he was little, he would sleep in until we woke him, and would fight his early bedtime every night.  He absolutely loved nighttime – the later, the better.  I never understood the attraction.

One year, we took a family vacation to Hawaii when the kids were in their early teens.  Sara and I would get up to watch the sunrise and grab some juice or coffee. 

Tim wanted to sleep in.  We would wake him up, but he was pretty grumpy.  We’d go for an early breakfast, but he wouldn’t talk.  He barely ate his food, slumped over his meal and disengaged from conversation.

I thought it was because he was a teenager.  I was concerned about his attitude, and felt like he was just being rude and rebellious.  I was worried about our relationship.  I tried to connect, but nothing happened.

I tried to “fix” him.  It didn’t work.

He was perceptive enough to know what was happening.  One morning, he mustered up enough energy to form a few words.  He put his head up, looked me in the eye and said, “Just give me two hours.  Don’t talk for two hours.  We’ll be fine.”

And we were.

I would feel the same way if somebody tried to engage me in conversation late at night.  I didn’t understand, but I came to appreciate it.

A few years later, Tim gave me an unusual gift for Father’s Day.  He made a certificate that said he would take me to a midnight movie.

I said, “Hey!  I thought you were supposed to give gifts that people actually want!  A midnight movie?  I’ll fall asleep!”

“Take a nap,” he said.  “You’ll be fine.”

I really wasn’t looking forward to it, but he really wanted me to go.  So I took a nap.

It was an action movie, so I actually stayed awake through the whole thing.  We walked out of the theater about 2:15 AM.  There weren’t very many people in the theater, so we stood on the street by ourselves.

It was quiet. 

It was peaceful.

It was amazing.  I had the same feeling I do when I get up at dawn.

He stood quietly for a minute, staring into the dark quietness as if to just take it all in.

“This is my world,” he said.  “I wanted you to see it.”

I saw it.  I felt it.  And I loved him for sharing it with me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a night person.  And I’ll always prefer mornings – like I’m doing right now. 

But I don’t debate which is better any more.  I don’t have to be right.

I’ve just learned the value of looking through someone else’s eyes.

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • Lynn Erickson-Simonson

    Oh Mike…I believe your class was one of my first – early morning….I was barely able to function! I am on board with Tim but have realized that being a mom meant I HAD to get up early….I have since taught my kids the values of staying up late! 🙂

    • (Sorry for the late response . . . my travel has gotten in the way of responding to these comments . . . !)

      I’m glad I got to be one of the early catalysts in helping you get up early . . . See, it’s not so bad, right?

  • Janine Wagner

    Well written. I can relate to your son. I am great after I have been up for a couple hours. My husband and all 3 kids are morning people. I have to be up for work and I do enjoy the cool, calm beginning to the day,,but I will always be a night person at heart. We do need to appreciate the differences.

    • You’re a night person in a family of morning people? Ouch! You need to put Proverbs 27:14 on your wall – “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Thanks, Janine!

  • Phyllis McCall Jew

    Very nicely written. My job makes me a morning person, I wake up at 5:30am, but given a choice I would start my day around 10. I do like the quietness of the morning though.

    • Those jobs certainly get in the way of life sometimes, don’t they? I think we should get paid to take a nap every afternoon . . .

  • Ximena Melendez

    Good morning Mr. Bechtle,
    Thank you for your post! Thank you for teaching us the value of the differences in people and how to appreciate it.
    I am more a morning than a night person, but I enjoy both when something good happens at that time.

    • Thanks, Ximena! It’s always good to look through someone else’s eyes . . .

  • Paul Schliep

    Living with people in an understanding way is a great gift to them. Thanks for reminding us that although we are different, it doesn’t mean we are wrong.

    • How come we have to keep being reminded? Slow learners, I guess . . .