Some people wake up before the sun peeks over the horizon, run and eat a hearty breakfast, all before many others roll out of bed. That early awakening may sound exhausting to those who get up late, but can a night owl become an early bird?
It is possible to make a change, but it is not easy, said Michelle Drerup, director of behavioral sleep medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “A real night owl doesn’t really feel great the first time it wakes up, especially when this starts to switch.”
A person’s tendency to be a night owl, an early bird or some other place is known as their chronotype. Depending on their chronotype, people are likely to be more alert and awake at certain times of the day and sleepy during others.
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The chronotype is determined by a combination of nature and care, scientists have determined. Naturally, a number of genes are known to play a role in determining whether a person prefers to be awake late at night or early in the morning, Drerup told Live Science. Hundreds of genes are linked to the morning person, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Nature Communications. These genes affect a person’s circadian rhythm or the natural cycle of sleep and waking, leading to his chronotype.
The environment also plays a big role. People tend to participate in daily activities that strengthen their chronotype, Drerup said. For example, night owls feel more productive and awake at night, so they tend to exercise and socialize in the evening. These activities stimulate and enhance a person’s tendency to stay up late.
Since the environment is a factor that determines whether a person is a night owl or a morning owl, it is possible to change your sleep and wake cycle. If you want to wake up earlier, make the change gradually. Drerup recommended slowly switching the wake-up alarm earlier by 15 to 20 minutes every few days for a few weeks until you adjust to your ideal schedule.
Consistency is key. “Night owls will fight here a lot of times,” Drerup said. “They’ll start adjusting as the work week progresses, then stay up late and sleep on the weekends. They’re losing momentum that they started to develop at the end of the work week.”
Limit exposure to light in the hour before bed, for example by keeping it away from the screen, Drerup said. Light blocks the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms. On the other hand, try to expose yourself to light as soon as you wake up to stop melatonin production.
Avoid stimulating activities late at night. Instead of exercising at night, try exercising in the morning or afternoon. You may also need to switch meal times to earlier in the day.
If your job is a night owl, there is no reason to change your sleep schedule. But staying up late becomes a problem when you have to wake up early for work and school. This can lead to lack of sleep, which can seriously harm your health, for example by increasing the risk of High blood pressure i type 2 diabetes.
Originally posted on Live Science.