Not an Evening or Morning Person? Science Says This is Why

Not an Evening or Morning Person? Science Says This is Why

The National Sleep Foundation says it’s completely normal to go through sleep changes as you age, whether you suddenly have a harder time falling asleep or wake up more often throughout the night. Chat with your doctor about your sleep schedule and bring up any habits that are negatively affecting the amount you’re getting, like snoring, restless leg syndrome, or even stress and anxiety. And if you want to get on a solid schedule, here are 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.

You’ve probably gone you’re whole life identifying as either a morning person or an evening person, depending on when you thrive and tend to be most productive. However, there’s a lot of time in between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., leaving those who kick into high gear at 3 p.m. wondering where they fall. Now a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differencesis providing answers.

Previous research has divided people up into two distinct sleep “chronotypes” (i.e., how your circadian rhythm dictates your energy levels). Those established chronotypes are “larks,” who are at their most alert in the morning, and “evening owls,” who have more energy at night. But for this new study, researchers in Belgium and Russia asked more than 1,300 people to complete an online survey that measured their levels of alertness based on the presumption that they got a good night of sleep and woke up at around 7:30 a.m.

They found that while many people are indeed either larks or evening owls, they also identified two new chronotypes: The “afternoon” types, who are most alert from 11 a.m. until around 5 p.m., and the “nappers”—who feel very alert early in the morning, become very sleepy around 3 p.m., and then continue to be very alert until around 10 p.m.

“Evidence is accumulating for the possibility to distinguish more than two distinct chronotypes, i.e., people would be neither morning nor intermediate nor evening types,” the paper concludes, adding that the “two further types … were not uncommon.”

The study is limited by the fact that the results were self-reported, but it also adds to a growing call from experts that it’s best to manage one’s day according to their chronotype. If not, the consequences can be very serious.

For example, a recent study found that night owls are more likely to suffer from obesity, insomnia, and ADHD. They are also at greater risk for developing addictive behaviors, antisocial tendencies, and mental disorders than their lark counterparts because of something called “social jet lag”—which describes the feeling you have when your biological clock isn’t in sync with society’s schedule. Another recent study found that night owls have a 10 percent increased risk of dyingfrom any cause. In both cases, researchers theorized that the central issue was that going against one’s natural chronotype could cause potential physical and mental health issues.

All of that being said, it is also possible to train yourself to be an early riser, or to take a well-timed power nap if need be. For more on this, read up on what Science Says Is the Length of a Perfect Nap.

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