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Previous research suggests that people with Type B personality tend to score higher on creative personality traits. (Photo: justsolove / Shutterstock / NTB scanpix)

Musicians tend to have Type B personality

Does the circadian rhythm of musicians differ from the circadian rhythm of other people? This is one of the questions for which several psychologists at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences sought answers.

Our circadian rhythm directs our body's functions. It affects, among other things, sleep, appetite, physical form, emotions and thinking.

People with Type B personality secrete the nighttime hormone melatonin later in the evening than people with Type A personality.

Most of us have a slightly longer, biological rhythm than the 24 hours of the day, and find ourselves falling somewhere between Type A and Type B people. But are musicians more likely than others to be night owls rather than morning birds?

Are musicians night owls?

A group of researchers at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (INN University) have focused on the circadian rhythm of musicians. They have looked into what kind of circadian rhythms are common among musicians and non-musicians. The results are now published in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms.

“The main finding is that musicians – to a much greater extent than non-musicians – show tendencies to have type B personality,” says Reidulf G. Watten from INN University, who is one of the researchers behind the study.

Collected data on the Internet

833 people answered a questionnaire, which constitutes the basis of the findings. 600 musicians and 233 non-musicians were recruited through an online forum.

Participants answered a questionnaire with questions about, among other things, sleep, appetite and daily routines. For example, one of the questions was “How awake do you feel the first half hour after you get up?”. Participants were required to answer on a scale of one to four.

A low score indicates that the respondent is a “B person,” while a high sum indicates that she/he is an “A person.”

“Performing musicians have significantly lower scores compared to non-musicians, and the lowest score is associated with the musicians who, in addition to performing, also make music. So the composers stand out a bit, they are more night owls than the others,” says Watten.

Correlation between creativity and circadian rhythm

Several international studies show that A people and B people have somewhat different personality traits. B people generally display less order and are less structured. They also have an end-of-activities later in the day than morning birds.

There is also a correlation between creativity and whether you are an A or B person. Night owls score higher on various creative factors such as mental flexibility and originality. So it is no wonder that it is the composers who are most notably B people. Composition is, after all, a highly creative activity.

“In other words, being awake late and during the night can stimulate creativity and the ability to find alternative and original solutions,” Watten believes.

Jazz musicians in particular score high on aberrant or alternative thinking in previous studies, compared to other musicians. This is explained by the fact that musical improvisation is central in jazz.

The circadian rhythm is changeable, to some extent

Biology and genes are linked to our circadian rhythm, but the rhythm can – to some extent – be influenced by culture, socialization and learning.

“Working as a musician often includes performances in the evening, so that he or she can, to a certain extent, be able to adapt to a lifestyle with a circadian rhythm that is compatible with the working hours of a performing musician,” Watten explains.

“Although these performing musicians generally received a low score and tend to be B people, we cannot say that all musicians are B people. They are more late hummingbirds than morning birds and night owls,” Watten believes.

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Brechan I. et al., “Musicians: Larks, Owls or Hummingbirds?”, Journal of Circadian Rhythms, 2019.

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