There is no right or wrong when it comes to being either an early riser or a night owl. There are some people who seem to naturally fall into the former camp and some who naturally fall into the latter camp. Then there are people who fall somewhere in between the two.
In a recent study conducted by the company 23 and Me, some of the most “morning” people by state were in Utah, New Mexico, and New Hampshire. Some of the most “night owl” people were living in New York, Kentucky, North Dakota, and Nebraska.
Also in the study results, they found that more women (48.4%) than men (39.7%) said they were morning people. And people over 60 (63.1%) were much more likely to prefer mornings than people under 30 (24.2%), which fits with research that found that older people tend to rise earlier.
According to Business Insider, compared with morning people, “people who self-identified as night owls (while not a truly objective measure) were almost twice as likely to suffer from insomnia and about two-thirds were as likely to have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, (a sleep disorder that causes you to repeatedly stop breathing while you sleep). By contrast, self-described morning people were less likely to need more than 8 hours of sleep, to sleep soundly, to sweat while sleeping, or to sleep walk.”
Katherine Sharkey, MD, PhD, the associate director of the Sleep for Science Research Lab reports “some people have a slightly longer natural cycle, and some are slightly shorter.” If your natural circadian rhythm is longer, you’re likely to be a night owl, whereas if it runs short, you’re likely an early riser.
Scientists have found actual differences in the brains and bodies of early and late risers. Morning people tend to be slimmer, healthier, and have higher academic performance for students in high school and college.
Night people tend to be heavier, can feel like they have chronic jet lag, and are more prone to depression. Scientists at Germany’s Aachen University took brain scans which showed that night owls had reduced integrity of white matter in several areas of the brain, which has been linked to depression.
But some studies have shown that people who tend to stay up late are more productive during their waking hours. They also tend to display greater analytical abilities and reasoning.
Scientists believe our sleep preferences are partially caused by genetics. These sleep preferences, “chronotypes” are determined at birth. If you look at it from an evolutionary perspective, it makes complete sense that the people who prefer being awake during the day would do the gathering and the hunting, and the people who prefer being awake at night would be perfect for guard duty and keeping the home fires burning.
A Study published in Nature Communications reported that 15 genetic markers were linked to the early bird/night owl phenomenon, and 7 of those genes were located near other genes which governed our internal body clocks.
An obvious question is what to do when you favor one chronotype and your partner favors and opposite chronotype. Believe it or not, early birds and night owls can peacefully coexist when a little flexibility is displayed by both companions.
First of all, do not try to change your partner. That is a losing battle that can’t be won. You might have to schedule your time together. For example, breakfast might be impossible to plan, but time out for lunch or dinner is probably possible. Go see a movie in the afternoon instead of waiting for a night showing. It’s important to make the effort.
Be nice. A little common courtesy can go a long way. Don’t empty the dishwasher at 6 am when the bedroom is on the other side of the wall. Don’t leave the television blaring at midnight.
By all means, focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. It’s actually a perfect setup for new parents to be on different shifts. You can both have a great night’s sleep!