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What makes someone a night owl or early bird?

Are you a lark, someone who likes being up and active in the early morning? Do you do your best work early in the day, and do you wind down in the evenings toward a relatively early bedtime? Or are you a night owl, someone who tends to wake later and perhaps gains energy and focus as the day progresses, someone who likes to work (and play) in the evening hours?

Whether you’re inclined toward one direction or another -- or find yourself somewhere in the middle -- these tendencies feel deeply ingrained. Scientists have been exploring for some time the notion that the circadian rhythms that regulate the sleep-wake cycle and many other of the body’s biological processes are influenced by our genes. Studies involving twins have provided evidence that our genes have a significant influence over sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. Scientists have in recent years identified a “wake up” gene that is believed to be responsible for activating the body’s biological clock in the morning.

Now a team of researchers from the United States and Canada has identified a specific genetic variant that appears to determine whether a person will be an early bird, a night owl, or somewhere in the middle. The specific type of genetic variation an individual possesses may influence the tendency to rise earlier or later by as much as 60 minutes.

Continue Learning about Sleep Basics

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.