Research explains why you’re an early bird or night owl and the impact it has on your career

We all know those perky people who accomplish an entire day’s work before 9 a.m. Maybe you’re even one of those people, but mornings aren’t for everyone and there’s a scientific reason behind it which can affect your daily life and your career.

Believe it or not, our sleep patterns are genetically determined at birth, according to sleep expert Michael Breus author of The Power of When. So naturally, your body has a propensity for sleep based on your “biological clock” scientifically known as a circadian rhythm.

“The human clock is about 24 hours, thanks to Earth’s 24-hour light-dark cycle,” Katherine Sharkey, MD, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine and psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and associate director of the Sleep for Science Research Lab says. “But some people have a slightly longer natural cycle, and some are slightly shorter.” If your circadian rhythm is longer, you’re likely a night owl and if it runs short, you’re likely an early riser.

These circadian rhythms can determine how well you succeed in your career.

Night owls are likely to experience a “social jet lag” which is a lack of synchronization between a person’s biological clock and the society around them, according to Ana Adan who conducted a study on morning people and evening people at the University of Barcelona back in 2014.

Social jet lag results in lower levels of positive energy during the morning, due to their tired state which can especially affect those with an early start.

“When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. My earlier research showed that they tend to get better grades in school, which get them into better colleges, which then lead to better job opportunities,” according to Havard biologist Christoph Randler who conducted a study in which he surveyed 367 university students on their biological clocks and how it affected their daily lives.

Randler found that morning people tend to anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They also are more likely to be proactive which led to better job performance and higher wages.

Evidence also shows that your circadian rhythm affects your health. Early birds have self-reported to be happier, more optimistic, and healthier than night owls.

Evening types are more likely to suffer from addictive behaviors, mental disorders, insomnia, antisocial tendencies, and depression, according to researcher Ana Adan. 

It’s not all bad for larks though, according to Adan. They are usually more creative, extravagant, temperamental, and adventurous. They also tend to have higher averages of intelligence than morning types.

And if you’re really concerned about the effects of being a night owl, professor Randler said that you can attempt to shift the timing of your sleep to become a morning person by going to bed earlier.

Environmental cues like light and diet can also work to change your body’s biological clock. Randler suggested going outside in daylight early in the morning because it resets your circadian clock and shifts your body toward morningness.

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