The general perception in contemporary society is that so-called morning people are more efficient, energetic and insufferable productive. But what if you're genetically hard-wired to be a night person? Can you hack your own system to become a morning person?
Maybe so. As Trace Dominguez explains in today's DNews special, genetics play a role in how our internal clocks function -- but we can fiddle with that clockwork as well.
In a 2012 study, researchers confirmed what had been long suspected -- that specific genetic attributes correlate with wake-sleep behavior. Specifically, the nucleobase adenine is linked with morning persons, while rival nucleobase guanine in associated with night owls. People with the AA genotype wake up an hour earlier, on average, than those with the GG genotype.
A separate study released earlier this year backs up the results and in fact found 15 different regions of the human genome that are linked to being a morning person.
RELATED: This Genetic Condition Makes You Need Less Sleep
Seven of those regions are associated with genes regulating circadian rhythm. That's the body's internal clock, which runs on a (roughly) 24-hour cycle. Chemical triggers in the brain send signals to the body that tell us when to sleep, when to wake up and when other biological processes should commence.
This is where we have an opportunity for manual clock setting, as it were. Your circadian rhythm is largely informed by environmental cues, especially the sun. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, find some daylight or a reasonable retail approximation. Daylight triggers the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle, to decrease the hormone melatonin, which makes you sleepy You can employ some simple psychological strategies, too. If you want to get up earlier, sleep experts recommend using rituals and rewards -- give yourself a treat when the alarm goes off. Bacon, maybe. Just as long as it's not a nap. You can also gradually shift your wake time by bumping the alarm clock earlier in 20-minute increments.
-- Glenn McDonald
Live Science: Early Bird Or Night Owl? It May Be In Your Genes
Harvard: Individual Variation And The Genetics Of Sleep
Nature: GWAS of 89,283 individuals identifies genetic variants associated with self-reporting of being a morning person