Chronotypes: Are You an Early Bird or a Night Owl?

Night OwlAre you a morning person or a night owl?

Longtime readers of this blog would likely say that the answer to that question depends on several factors: how much light exposure you get during the day, how much light exposure you get at night, how your cortisol fluctuates throughout the day, how much coffee you drink and when you drink it, or what time you go to sleep. The best part is that they’re all modifiable. By changing them, we can change how we feel in the morning, how productive we are at certain hours, and whether we need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon. We are not at the mercy of powers unbeknownst to us. We hold the power.

But is that the whole story?

Probably not. A growing body of research has identified something called a chronotype: a sleep phenotype, determined by slight alterations to the “Period 1” gene, that influences your sleep and wake time. Genetic early birds have an AA nucleotide base and will be naturally inclined to go to bed and wake up earlier. They make up roughly a third of the population. 16% of people are genetic night owls with a GG nucleotide base; they tend to have later bedtimes and wake times (about an hour after the early birds). And the middle ground – which is almost 50% of people – have an AG base and a tendency to wake up “between” the two extremes. You can affect your sleep habits by changing things like light exposure at day/night, electronic media consumption, caffeine intake, and so on, but the genetic chronotype will always underline your response. It’s the baseline, and recent evidence in live humans confirms this.

You know how when we mention epigenetics, we usually refer to modifiable environmental factors affecting gene expression? The food we eat, the exercise we get, the thoughts we think, the stressors we encounter – these can all modify the function of our genes and we in turn can modify our exposure to them. But here, it’s the actual genetic chronotype that’s affecting how our genes express. It appears that the genes regulating sleep cycles are being modified by the chronotype itself, a kind of internal, self-contained epigenetic input that we cannot directly or consciously alter. Some might see that as a loss of power in determining our fate, but I think it’s a really interesting concept, an additional wrinkle to the broadening story of gene expression.

What does this mean for your health?

Well, mornings tend to be tough for folks with the night owl chronotype. That’s to be expected, since going to bed later than society expects while having to wake up earlier than your biology “wants” means inadequate, lower quality sleep. We all know how a night of poor sleep feels. Imagine a lifetime!

But that’s not all. A quick trip through the literature reveals numerous connections between the night owl chronotype and poor health outcomes. It all seems quite dire:

Why would a chronotype that confers a higher risk of just about every negative health malady be selected for by evolution? How did the GG nucleotide even survive?

Because it’s only in a society with a standard universal workday that begins at around 8 AM that the night owl is an unhealthy, lazy malcontent worthy of our disdain. For every one of the “negative health effects of being a night owl chronotype,” I can link it directly to a lack of sleep:

Poor glucose tolerance? A lack of sleep will lead to it.

Fibromyalgia? Strongly linked to a lack of sleep.

Unhealthy eating? A bad night’s sleep makes junk food more enticing.

Prone to depression? Bad sleep could be causing it.

Thousand of years ago, the night owl would have been the lookout man, the nighttime raider, the drummer around the fire, the shaman who stayed up all night accepting patients. He would have been privy to the same ancestral environmental cues as everyone else – daylight, absence of light at nighttime, whole real foods, plenty of vitamin D – but his chronotype would have pushed his bedtime back a bit and he wouldn’t have been any worse for wear. He didn’t have to get up to beat rush hour or satisfy society’s arbitrary notion of a workday schedule. He could sleep in; he wasn’t getting fired or evicted or forced to get inadequate sleep just to satisfy society’s expectations.

The early bird had a role, too, of course. He’d get up at dawn, or just before it, to get a jump on the game. To stake out a good spot at the watering hole or the feeding grounds.

They are genetic outliers, but we need outliers. The tribe with a blend of early birds, night owls, and in-betweeners would have a better shot at surviving and thriving than the tribe with a perpetual case of the Mondays or the tribe who just can’t stop yawning after dark with the lookouts who fall asleep at their posts.

Nowadays, late chronotypes often suffer from social jetlag: an often permanent misalignment between the demands of their biological clock and the expectations of society. This misalignment even shows up in MRI scans, with night owls having malfunctioning white matter in the “sadness” and “depression” areas of the brain. “The world” assumes an early chronotype. Early risers get the accolades, the job offers. Work schedules revolve around early risers.

It’s no wonder that late chronotypes have all sorts of negative health effects normally associated with poor sleep – they live in a society that forces them to go to bed earlier than they want and wake up earlier than they’re meant to! Social expectations conspire against them.

How can you tell what chronotype you have?

To determine a person’s chronotype, researchers use a standardized questionnaire that you can access online for free. It’s widely considered to be just as accurate as the genetic tests, so anyone who’s wondering about their own genetic chronotype should go on and take it.

There’s also a cheek swab that will determine your genetic chronotype, but it’s not widely available to the public so I wouldn’t count on it.

What should you do if you’re a late chronotype?

Avoid substance abuse. One study found increased psychological distress (depression, sadness, etc.) only among late chronotypes who smoked and drank to excess. While this doesn’t necessarily suggest a causal relationship – it could very well be that only those under psychological distress seek solace in substance abuse – avoiding excessive tobacco and alcohol is a good policy regardless.

Send your boss a link to this post. Make it known that it’s in your employer’s best interest that you’re able to adhere to your biological clock. You’ll be healthier, more productive, and more alert. Everyone wins. It’s not even that you need to sleep in until noon. Just an extra hour in the morning will make a huge difference. Of course, if this works, make sure you get to bed at a reasonable – for you – time. Don’t use this as an excuse to stay up even later.

Become your own boss. This won’t work for everyone, but I know a sizable portion of my readers have wanted to do their own thing for a long time. I’d even say it’s a common, population-wide desire that most people simply don’t act on. Well, let this be the start of something beautiful. Your health and happiness (and productivity) may depend on it. Perhaps that’s one reason entrepreneurs are happiest, regardless of socioeconomic status – they set their own schedules. A night owl entrepreneur can operate according to his or her biological, genetically-determined clock.

Follow best sleep practices – limit extraneous artificial light and electronic media after dark, get plenty of natural light during the day. You may have a different baseline, but blue light will still push your sleep cycle back, a lack of natural light during the day will still disrupt your sleep, and your social jetlag will get even worse.

Take heart, night owls. It’s not so bad. Your genes are the stuff of fierce warriors in the night, of stalwart sentries keeping watch over their people, keeping them safe, of wild-eyed shamans bridging the gap between this world and the next. You are dreamers and artists and comedians and inventors and entrepreneurs. If you’re a night owl who’s suffering for it, I suggest you embrace your heritage and find a way off your current trajectory that simply isn’t working for you.

It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But it’s probably really important.

Good luck!

What about you, folks? What kind of a chronotype do you have? Did you take the quiz? Do so and report back; let us know if the results jibe with your experiences!

Thanks for reading. Take care.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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115 thoughts on “Chronotypes: Are You an Early Bird or a Night Owl?”

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  1. I’m in the 50% mark. I can go to bed a little on the later side and still be able to wake up feeling fine on the earlier side.

    Are these “tendencies” fluid? When I was younger I used to be that night owl and now that’s no longer the case.

    1. Same here, in a big way. I ranked as a “slightly early” chronotype, but when I was younger, left to my own devices and on holidays I’d rarely fall sleep before 2am.

      Now the thought of even doing that exhausts me, but I wonder where I’d be based on setting my own schedule in a fractal, natural method. It makes me intensely curious.

    2. When you go through puberty your circadian rhytym changes You wake up later and stay up later – sleeping more at this time in your life than any time other than infantcy. Once in your early 20’s (and brain mylanation is complete) the cycles return to normal

      1. I guess puberty never stopped for me then, because I can still sleep late!

    3. i know this is late, but i just read the wikipedia page on chronotypes, and it says that a teenager’s chronotype and an adult’s cannot be compared

      for example, an evening adult may be 11:30pm, wheres that would be a morning teenager. so i guess that agrees with krystyne’s circadian rhythm in a way 🙂

  2. Moderate Early. No surprise there as I generally get a full day’s worth of work done in the morning and then do the very minimum possible to get by in the afternoon. I prefer to work hard all morning, take a nap in the afternoon and then get a second wind in the evening. By 10 or 11 pm I’m ready to wind down and go to bed.

  3. I’ve been a moderate night owl ever since childhood. Fortunately, I spent my whole career working from 2 or 4 p.m. until midnight in a medical laboratory. Not only was the evening shift generally less stressful (fewer co-workers and supervisors, more autonomy), I had an easier commute, and more time to spend outside or with my homeschooled children during daylight hours. Now retired, I am usually asleep by midnight and awake around 8 a.m. I have one child who is a lark, and another who is a night owl.

    1. My life was pretty much the same, I was happiest and most productive on swing shift and it was especially great when I was homeschooling. My husband worked a day shift, so we split child care duties. Now I’m retired and within a year my natural schedule has changed so that I awake with the sun and go to bed at sunset. That’s a lot of sleep hours in the winter, I never thought I’d be doing that. I haven’t had a TV for 15 years, I find it makes living my own real life much easier.

  4. I think it’s a wrong assumption that work schedules revolve around the early birds! I tend to get up between 3:30 and 4: 30 am, and my life is as much of a struggle with schedules as the late risers’. The gym doesn’t open up till 5:30 am, the buses do not run till 5:13 am, and you can barely get to work by 6 am. That’s if you do not have to drop off at the before-school care that doesn’t open until 7 am (you gotta be kidding! in a subrurb with 1 hour commute downtown!!!) You tend to be ravenous by 10 am. AND most workplaces expect you to stay ‘on the job’ past 3 pm. The meetings are rarely scheduled at 6:30 am when you are there, but nobody feels that a 3 pm to 4 pm meeting is a bad idea. The fitness classes tend to start at 6-7 pm going till 8-9 pm (anyone feels like a jolt of upbeat cardio 14 hours after waking and immediately before going to bed? NO? REALLY?). People don’t think that having a music blaring or dog barking at 8 pm is a big deal (it’s not 11 pm yet, right???)

    1. I don’t suffer your other early bird problems, but I definitely get the neighbors don’t care about making noise after 8 pm. Sometimes 8 pm is when my neighbor STARTS mowing his lawn. My white noise machine has proven to be very helpful in this regard.

    2. Your comment sounds so familiar. Can’t do a load or two of laundry because you’ll wake the neighbors (we live in a condo – I hear their laundry at 9 or 10PM so I know they can hear mine at 4AM) or you’ll wake the later risers in the house, can’t go shopping – nothing is open, etc. So there I lay until 5AM – a minimally respectable time to get up and turn on some lights, some music and the shower.
      I keep thinking that I’ll get up at 4 to do some exercises but now that it’s winter it’s too cold in the rest of the house – that and it’ll wake everyone else up. Argh.
      I keep looking for a job that starts about 5AM so that I can work in the best time for me but so far it’s 8 to 5 for me.
      I have to have full spectrum lights for night time so I don’t accidentally fall asleep about 7PM, it’s been dark since 4PM – ahahahaha. OH well, the older I get the shorter the dark days of winter are, a benefit in my opinion.

    3. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am not up quite as early as you but I find my struggles the same.

    4. Right there with you. I often wake up round 4.30am and in summer it can be even earlier. I usually leave for work (I’m a PE teacher) at 6.30am so I can incorporate a 3 mile walk into my commute. That’s the only way I get exercise on the three days I teach because my gym doesn’t open early enough, and like you, I have no energy to do a class in the evening or deal with the crowds of people using the weights. On a school day I tend to fall into bed, exhausted, around 9pm or so I fully undersand your frustration at noise. Fortunately my current neighbours are good but I’ve had problems with previous tenants.

    5. I took the test and got “Extreme Early” type. I’m so happy to hear that others have this pattern. Apparently I am a freak of nature among family and friends! I regularly wake up at 3:30 or 4AM. Normally I’m in bed by 10, but I’m going to start going to bed MUCH earlier. And just get out of bed when I wake up, rather than lying there wishing I could fall back to sleep.

  5. This article is f%^&ing brilliant. It’s not too uncommon for me that when I read things i’ve always felt but had no scientific backing for that I begin to tear up or laugh uncontrollably. I don’t know if other people do this but it’s certainly helpful for me because I know when I’ve found the truth. Thanks Mark.

  6. In the Paleo Manifesto, Durant mentions an interesting sleep pattern with regards to asronauts. He called it “free-running”, being as productive as one cares without any regard for a 24 hour pattern. Durant says this free running (not that jumping around flippy stuff) reduces productivity. So it would seem that staying up for 3 or 4 days would be to the detriment of your health AND your time sensitive projects. Hmm. Also, in this service economy where a ton of us work in bars and get home at dawn, it doesn’t matter what type of sleeper you are because clearly that sleep pattern doesn’t fit in a healthy circadian rhythm.

  7. What’s the chronotype called where you sleep late but end up waking early and can’t fall back asleep… And then feel tired the while day?

    1. ..that is called depression… ;(
      (at least in my case it was, depression is still here but I sleep too much = I need 9-10 hours sleep a night to act “human”)

      But if don’t feel that way yet, you might get depressed if you don’t get enough sleep. Beware!

  8. Another classic line from MDA: “Recent evidence in live humans confirms this”

    I guess dead people get all the rest…

  9. Shift work gave me chronic insomnia that took several years to get rid of after I stopped working. Even now, many years later, I try to be in bed and asleep by 11pm. Every time I need to stay up later, for whatever reason, I invariably get a second wind and will then be awake most of the night. This, of course, completely wrecks the next day for me since I’m barely able to function. Annoying to be so regimented regarding bedtime, but I’ve learned that the alternative isn’t worth it. I don’t eat junk food and don’t eat anything at all after dinner (usually around 6pm), so that isn’t a factor.

  10. Working in SF, it isn’t uncommon to see people who work whenever they want. The whole start up scene is finally realizing that the old 9-5 paradigm doesn’t work. If you’re not effective or efficient, then don’t waste anyone’s time. Get in and get stuff done when your motor is running highest.

  11. For anyone who wakes up too early and fall asleep too early:

    Read the book “Chronotherapy.” They suggest using a 10,000 lux lightbox IN THE AFTERNOON to help reset your internal clock. Every book I’ve ever read on the subject advises light therapy upon waking because people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can’t get out of bed, right? But there are other ways your internal clock gets out of sync and these authors have a “therapy” for everyone.

    1. I use our 10000 lux lamp late afternoon/early evening to artificially keep our shortening days (57 north) more equatorial in length. I think it is helping, as is being outside as much as I can in the day.

      I’m a natural early-bird but life-long insomniac, I’ve experienced all the negative health effects of disrupted sleep. Particularly disrupted eating/glucose intolerance/craving.

      The book Internal Time By Till Roenneberg has some fascinating case-studies on chronotypes and their evolutionary role.

  12. As a night person who works early in the fitness/health industry working against your body is tough. I’ve been able to rewire a bit and force myself to bed earlier than my body prefers knowing a 6am client awaits. Sucks because I can be really productive at night too.

    1. Me too… in fact I hate it so much I have quit the 5.30 am start gym job to go to a lower paying retail job just so I can join the real world again

  13. i’m an early bird all the way. 6am – 3pm is when i do all my best work, after that my brain just doesn’t want to think as clearly.

  14. I have always wondered about early man and woman with no fire how did they stay up late with no moon?

  15. moderate early. Very rarely do I just get to bed after 10pm. and I have a difficult time sleeping past 8 or 8:30. always productive in the morning. I get so unfocused in the afternoon/evening. this is fascinating!

  16. So right on time! I have known I was a night owl for quite some time but wondered if it stemmed from personal choices only. My worst memories are of two jobs I had that had start times around 5 – 6 a.m. – torture! I also love the entrepreneur advise. Thanks for the great post!

  17. Interesting but something is not clear:

    16% of people are genetic night owls with a GG nucleotide base; they tend to have later bedtimes and wake times (about an hour after the early birds).

    Does that mean the night owls go to bed an hour after the early birds rise or go to bed? Neither really makes sense to me. I would think they go to sleep several hours after the early birds.

    1. I was thinking the same. It’s not at all unusual for my husband to come to bed five hours later or even more! %\

      Back when I tried to keep his schedule, the birds would sometimes start chirping & daylight peeping through the shades just when he was finally ready for bed! My system was SO CONFUSED.

    2. I think it meant that *on average* night owls go to bed an hour later and wake up an hour later.

  18. According to the website I was a slight early, which I guess is desirable? I was not expecting that because I tend to naturally stay up later and wake up later, but when I have to wake up to an alarm clock I just lay there in bed for a while bemoaning the fact that I must get up. However, I do get a lot of stuff done early on in the day, so maybe it’s right…

  19. Too little is being said about The Drug of Choice for modern civilization: caffeine. Many people I know have regular coffee all day and even after their evening meal, and stay up late watching television until it wears off. All year long.

    Quite a confounder in determining if one is a night-owl or early bird, and not great for one’s health.

    1. I go through phases where I drink several cups a day (including well after my evening meal), and others where I have maybe one or two a week (usually in the AM). Not planned, sometimes I want it, sometimes I don’t. Regardless, I’m rarely asleep befor 1am, even if I go to bed at 11.

  20. Very interesting, I am an extremely early type – I already knew that I was an early bird, but not HOW early. Very interesting. I was surprised at the discussion about how very early types wind up being sleep deprived on off-days – we want to stay up later but still wake up early.

  21. Is there a place where Mark has stored all of the research that he links to? It would be a big help when trying to convince family and friends that I’m NOT killing myself by eating primal. If not, you really need to make one Mark!!

  22. I love this article! I thought I leaned towards the “night owl,” however I took the test and I am a moderate early bird that gets pressured into staying up late. This will be very helpful in making sure I get enough rest at night (I am one of those who need at least 8 hours a night to function), as it does affect my ability to stick to primal eating the next day if I don’t get enough sleep. Thanks, Mark!

  23. I almost continued my thoughts in my first post but decided to wait. I was also wondering how “fluid” this is in people. I used to be a major night owl until I had to start working. Also, it seems that adolescents are hard-wired to stay up late and sleep late… least all of them that I’ve known have been (myself included). The only constant for me is that I’ve never been productive in the afternoons. Early mornings and late nights are my most productive times.

    1. Read Till’s Internal Time it explains about the shifts through adolescence and into adulthood and later in life. Is fascinating, especially in the context of ancestral health etc.

  24. great article, but as a morning person, I’d challenge the notion that it’s only the nigh owl who suffer from societal pressures imposing a sleep reducing schedule. Parties, meetings, the theater, sportings events – all of them keep us early birds up long past our natural sleep time, thus diminishing out sleep diet. Why, if we early birds are also sleep deprived, do we not show the same symptoms? I’m curious!

    1. Try sleeping from 4am to 7am five days a week and tell me if it’s the same.

      I’m sure being permanently out of sync with the world sucks no matter what, but I strongly suspect it’s easier on morning larks. Night owls tend to be required to be severely chronically sleep deprived just to pay for food and shelter, while the larks are asked to run occasional sleep debts for evening fun. And when you start yawning and beg off early, people may call you no fun, but they’ve got Ben Franklin running in the back of their head telling them you’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise. They might think you’re hardcore and admire your commitment. When the owls finally get to sleep as their biology demands, they get told they’re losers, like teenagers, so lazy, just grow up and get it together already.

  25. Hmm. I rank as a slightly early person. But I question how valid this really is because if I have SEVERAL days in a row where I don’t have to be up and at ’em on a schedule then a tend to migrate towards staying up until between 1-2 in the morning and then sleeping until 8-10 in the morning. But because I have dogs that need a walk and a morning class to be at by 8:15 most mornings I generally stick with being up at 6am most days and even on my days ‘off’ I often have other things scheduled that mean I need to be up. SO my PREFERED sleep patterns are not really reflected by the questions they asked about my sleep and wake times. My sleep and wakes times are based more on sociatal pressures (and the fact that my dogs don’t care if it’s saturday!) than on my natural rhythms.

    1. That’s how I felt. When I was a student I purposely made my schedule so none of my classes started before 10 am (and on a good semester, 11.30!). I would naturally stay up until 1 or 2 and easily get up around 9 or 10. Now I’m at an 8-5 job so I’m forced to get up earlier, but it’s not easy by any means, especially if I dont’ stick to a similar schedule on the weekends. It doesnt’ feel like a natural sleep cycle at all.

    2. I just completed the survey and was surprised to find that I’m an average time sleeper. I completely disagree with the results. Specific times I provided got lumped into an average, and I don’t really have a normal sleep time (though I know I need to–I stay up as long as I have to in order to meet the demands of my job for the following day). I _know_ I do better work at the end of my day and would sleep until noon if the world would leave me alone. I found the survey to be completely off, and the information requested too limited in scope and possibilities of responses to be accurate, for me at least.

    3. Agreed, the survey results are off. It has me as moderate late night. I generally stay up way too late during the week, simply because I can’t fall asleep, even when I do go to bed early. By Friday night, I’m ready to fall asleep by 11, but Saturday and Sunday, I’m awake until 2 or 3. However, left to my own schedule… ie, more than just a weekend to recover from a week of sleep deprivation, I’ll naturally revert to going to bed at 4, 5, or even 6 am, and getting up around noon or 1.

    4. I so understand, as I used to have to get up to alarm clocks to take my daughter to school and my cat would come and climb on my face to get fed. I was always tired. Now I have neither cat nor daughter in school, and I’m getting up much later. Even so, I find despite good intentions I get very little done in the morning and just get rolling around 11 a.m. or even later…no matter when I go to bed! And when I have to get up earlier, I’m so tired in the afternoon.

  26. I don’t ned a test to tell me that I’m an early riser. I wake up naturally around 3 to 4 AM. My husband on the other hand is not, he and his mom would stay up until past midnight talking and visiting. He now has to get up early and go to bed early, poor guy. We are working on getting him back to a more “normal” schedule for him, he gets rather witty and funny around 10 AM, that’s when I know he’s awake totally. Our son is the middle – his perfect schedule would be wake up at 8AM and go to sleep about 8PM. The whole tribe is well rounded I guess.
    Looks like this – Me – no visible brain activity after 7PM, have to stay awake until at least 9 when it’s “bed time” for our son.
    Child – lots of energy up to 8PM
    Dad – forced into an unnatural routine – falls asleep when he sits down, occasionally will stay up past midnight making beautiful music, crow bar needed to wake up at 5:30AM so he can be to work by 6.
    Making baby steps to keep us healthy and sleeping at the right times.

  27. This is pretty cool. I’m very early… mainly because I get up to go to the gym at 4:30am 4 days a week.

  28. No surprise here — I was diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome 15 years ago. I was surprised to see that I’m only Moderate Late type, though. Well, until I get pushed into Extreme by stupid DST.

  29. Moderate night owl, which I kinda knew already. It’s interesting to see actual genetics play a part in this tho, and not simply “gene expression” or too much screen-time after hours.

    I got to say though, this research isn’t discouraging, it’s encouraging!! I’ve been thinking of starting my own business for a while now, and it seems like everywhere I look it keeps popping up (even on my favorite health blog… lol). Obviously, Mark would be considered an entrepreneur himself, having written a few books, started a publishing company, developed some supplements and other products to sell on his website. So of course he’d advocate it. 😉

    Of course, setting your own hours would only be part of it. I still got to get me a few pairs of those cool-ass yellow shades for evening wear. And get more sun exposure in the early morning. I know that I can shift it a bit based on what my body responds to, but I know now that there’s some things I can’t change entirely, and that’s relieving. I may be able to tweak my biology to go to bed just a little bit earlier and get up just a little more energized, but now I won’t be disappointed if I never make the transition to being a full-blown early bird. And that’s ok. I kinda like my night owl self. O.O

  30. I’m a mild early bird, my husband is a confirmed night owl, & of our fraternal twin sons, one is decidedly early & one late. They were even active at different times in utero! Over the years both my husband and I have struggled to reclock our bodies for the sake of jobs, school, togetherness, & so on, but eventually we get worn out & revert. Luckily he works in the restaurant biz– I think he chose it partly for the hours!

  31. Does anyone else feel like they are on a split schedule? I used to be a complete night owl, but nowadays I wake up super early (sunrise-ish). I love the quiet early hours, get a lot done, then fade super hard around 2pm… but get another burst of energy/clarity around 8pm that can last til 11pm. Ideally I can get a nap at around 3pm, but sometimes that works and sometimes it leaves me all foggy for the rest of the day.

    1. I used to operate a lot like that when my kids were little. Sometimes I’d work late late into the night, but be up by six at the latest. And I might still go that way if the rest of the world would shut down after lunch as they do in Spain!!

  32. I turned out as “normal,” so I’m neither an early bird or a night owl, although I tend to feel more like a night owl. My issue is my answers to these questions change drastically from season to season, especially on the daylight hours. I live in Alaska, so right now I’m only getting about 30 minutes to an hour of outside daylight time over my lunch (if its not cloudy), but in the summer I’m outside for anywhere from 3 to 7 hours, and on weekends that can reach up to 12 hours of sunlight a day. So I wonder, is our chronotype something that can change? I get that its a gene but I don’t think this is as static as this survey makes it seem.

    From my own experience, I know I tend to sleep more (or at least WANT to sleep more) during the dark winter months, and feel like I need less sleep during the summer when there is more daylight. This doesn’t surprise me at all–it just makes me miss summer!

  33. I’m a shift worker, and I hate the late shift – I cease to function at work after 4pm… Luckily I work two jobs so I get to start at 9am and finish at 1am! At least half the day is productive… But I can’t test myself as the shift worker version of the test as it doesn’t exist yet.

  34. Great post, and a very interesting concept.

    I just wonder how big of an influence the genetic factor really is, with so many modifiable epigenetic factors in the world.

    Many years ago, I was a total night owl, but I slowly weaned myself away from that and into a solid morning person.

    Maybe it’s just one of those traits that are quite flexible based on lifestyle.

  35. Reading these comments have been a real eye-opener for me, especially the early-risers!

    I struggle to get out of bed by 8am in the weekdays (I really need to be out of bed by 7:30). I’d really like to take on a more authorative/leadership role at my job (Web Developer) and it’s been suggested I get into work earlier to be more of a “good example” for the less experienced developers. However, I am dead to the world until about 10:30. This sucks, because every week there is a WIP meeting at 9am on Monday, plus another with a client every week on Tuesday. I am my most unproductive during these meetings.

    However you can bet that at about 5:30pm, just before going home, I have a huge brainwave and sometimes end up working until 8pm.

    But still – I am just a “slightly late” sleeper, along with plenty of other people!

  36. I like to consider myself pretty versatile when it comes to night owl vs. morning person. I’ve noticed in the last couple of days since the time changed that I’ve been waking up earlier with the extra sun that is coming in.

  37. This runs in my family – we all hate the mornings. I have been a morning grouch ever since I can remember – awake until wee hours with insomnia. School was hell for me because of the early mornings. Not only have I never been a morning person, but I need 8-9 hours of sleep to feel alright.

    Later as an adult, a 9:00 AM job was doable, but I switched to an 8:00 AM start and was back in hell. Now I am semi-retired and work in the afternoon only. I find that I naturally wake to go to the bathroom around 6 or 7:00, snooze until 9:00, then stay in bed doing email and reading until about 9:30-10:00. Then I get out of bed and leisurely start the day.

    I try not to make any appointments in the morning and still feel like crap if I have to have one at 8-9:00.

    I cannot eat anything until after 11:00 AM, just drink water or tea.

    So nice to be semi-retired and give in to my natural leanings. I feel so much better now. A couple of my friends are well-known “vampires” as well!

    1. This describes me also. I am usless until after 10am, and have no appetite til around noon. I’ve had both early and late start times on jobs, and 3 to midnight was my favorite. If I try to go to bed before 1 am, my body thinks we are just taking a nap, then I’m up all night. My absolute best sleep is between 5 and 9 am. In my family everyone is a total night owl except for my mother who was up at the crack of dawn (and thought everyone else should be, too.) All I know is that I’m done trying to change! I’m fortunate that I work from home now and can set my own hours. Interestingly, I’m an artist and most of my artist friends are still up working, too, most saying that late night is their most creative time.

    2. This is me to a T! 🙂 My parents never understood and still don’t because they are both early risers, but one of my sisters and myself are more pleasurable to be around after 10am.. the other sister is just like my parents. My husband is an early bird, but we make it work. He works all day so we’re not missing out on time together there and we always plan a date night a couple times a week. The weekends he knows he won’t see me up and about until after 10am. 🙂

      And eating, I can’t eat anything either until I’ve been awake a good hour, most times I just wait til lunch and then have a small salad and protein later in the day.

      I worked for many years 11am-11pm and it was the perfect job, later after we moved I found a great job but the hours were 7am-6pm.. gah that was a miserable 3yrs!

  38. I am wondering if how much sleep a person requires plays a factor in their chronotype? I am a 9 hour person. Therefore I go to bed early and I love sleeping in. There are others in my family who can be fully functional on 5 hours of sleep. They are also the early risers, but is it that they don’t need much sleep or are they “early birds”? I find this time of year, when it’s dark at my wake time, I am dead to the world until about 10. But in the summer I can be awake and alert at 8 when it’s light out! Interesting stuff.

    1. Have you checked the caffeine intake of the people you are comparing? I changed from 5 hours to 8 hours sleep requirement after I ditched caffeine. While this sounds bad at the surface, I have become healthier and look much younger since sleeping more. So my working theory at the moment is, that I really have always required 8 hours, but was suppressing the need with caffeine.

    2. It depends, for me. I can get up at noon, after 5 hours of sleep, and feel like a million bucks. But if I get up at 7 or 8, even after 8 or 9 hours of sleep, I still feel like I was hit by a bus.

  39. Great write up Mark! This is great info and can’t wait to see my results from the survey.

  40. Took the survey…Extreme early… but I knew that already. Instant awake. My stepfather, unfortunately, was extreme late but had to leave early for work. He didn’t really wake up until noon.

  41. Moderate early for me but I’ve always suspected I’m solar powered. I live in the country so no curtains over the bedroom window – instead I prefer to sleep by starlight or moonlight and wake with the dawn which I find easy. All through the night I’m fully aware of weather patterns, changing skies etc as I wake between sleep cycles. My sleep habits are therefore hugely affected by the seasons which is something I didn’t see mentioned in the study. Early rising at the moment (southern hemisphere spring/early summer) is no problem but there is no way I could do those times in winter (fortunately my job reflects the seasons so I start later in winter). If I have to sleep in a room with the curtains closed I don’t wake at the same times as above – I need an alarm to know what time it is and then I find it really hard to feel alert when I wake. I’ve always found your comment about sleeping in a dark room to be slightly at odds with the whole primal concept. After all, our ancestors could not create dark spaces for sleeping but their bodies and sleep cycles were subject to moon and starlight and the very early breaking of dawn that most of us are now oblivious to but when we are attuned to it the light eases us very gently into a new day without the sudden jolt of an a alarm and immediate exposure to bright light.

  42. Interesting I seem to be in the minority here as an extreme late type. I work 5 days a week from 1430 to 2300 and sleep from about 0030 to 1100 on work and free days. It seems to work with me although I feel if I got more sunlight I would be come an “earlier” type.

    1. I’m also an extreme late type!! I work 10am to 6pm though (i’d love to work later, but the clinic I work at closes at 6pm, therefore stealing away my most productive hours).

      I sleep 4am – 9am usually though, or if i’m starting later in the day at work which happens sometimes, I sleep until I have to go in. According to my mum, even as a toddler I was awake all night.

      Its 5:25am right now and i’m not even tired! What does life feel like without sleep debt?

  43. Okay, that was strange. I was expecting to be classified as a night owl, but instead got “Extremely early”. According to the write-up I’m completely discombobulated on my sleep – which I could well believe. Six days of seven right now, I have no control over either my waking or my bedtime. I can’t go to bed until kid #2 falls asleep, because otherwise he gets right back up again and has been known to stay up through the night. And then I have to get up to get kid #1 off to school, usually about four hours later.

    Which leads me to a question – how much does it matter if your sleep is broken into two parts, and does it matter which parts they are? I can think of two possible solutions to the severely inadequate sleep. I can go to bed early, and then get up to ensure that kid #2 goes to sleep, which would mean a 2-3 hour block of sleep, an hour up, and a 4-5 hour block. Or I could do my usual night’s sleep, get the kids off to school, and then go back to bed, which would be starting with the 4-5 hour block, and then an hour up, and then a shorter block of sleep to finish up. That central block is from 1-2am to 6:30am. Anybody know of any studies on that sort of bisected sleep?

  44. I don’t need a quiz – I’m a night owl! Night owls rejoice! 🙂

  45. Thank you for this article. I have always been a night owl, ever since I was a baby. It drove my mom nuts because my brother was an early bird. The test confirmed I am a moderate. I think growing up I was probably an extreme night owl, and most of the time only got 4 hours a night of sleep. I really suffered in High School, usually sleeping through my first 3 classes. I was happiest when I had a 2nd or 3rd shift job, but those don’t usually pay so well.

    When I started a career in the business world, I had to be at work by 8am. I would stay up until 2am and wake around 7am. Then I would sleep 12 hours on the weekends. I was working in doors, not getting much sun exposure, drinking and smoking and struggling with depression.

    I finally broke the cycle when I moved to Hawaii and started my own business. My business involves working outside. This alone allowed me to fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier then any other time in my life. I then built up my business so that I could hire some morning people. Now I can usually sleep in until 8 or 9am.

    My wife still calls me a zombie in the morning, but at least I feel better.

    I don’t think my kids have the gene though because they are up at 6:30 or 7 ready to go.

  46. Did they find a gene for people who can’t sleep at night but wishing for sleep all through the day???

    Seriously I go to bed early because I’m bloody tired and than I wake up many times at night and sleep stops around 4am…. It doesn’t matter how tired I am or how I have eaten…

  47. Extreme Late chronotype right now. My best is Moderate Late, but I’m at the extreme end now, going to sleep at 6:30 a.m.

    I’ve been like this since I was 17. In my early twenties, after doing the sleeping pills, light boxes, sleep phase therapy, staying up all night and day only to fall asleep at the same time each night,

    I used to fight my night owlishness and was sick a lot with bronchitis. I gave up fighting my body and became self-employed. I’ve been doing this for 35 years; I’m 56 now. It works.

    My self-employment and entrepreneurship had paid off very well and if I weren’t a night owl, I may not have had the success that I have had being a cubicle drone.

    My wife and family deal with my schedule. My daughter has the same chronotype as me.

    I got my DNA tested and I have the Delayed Sleep Phase genes: hPer3 (human period 3) and Clock polymorphism, I participated in a genetic study at the University of Utah eleven years ago and found out that my melatonin spike is offset from the average person’s cycle by 4-6 hours later, meaning that I do not sleep until 4-6 hours later than people knocking off at 11 or 12.

    I am not depressed or unhealthy. Blood panels are great, other than too high of iron, which I get blood drawn every two to three months.

    1. Let me add on to my post above.

      Even though I go to sleep on average at 6:30 a.m., I sleep incredibly well. I get lots of deep and REM sleep.

      When I wake up, I go outside or in the winter I use a Sperti Vitamin D lamp (I don’t tolerate Vitamin D supplements at all. They raise my blood pressure and make me feel weird). I can tolerate lots of sun and love it.

  48. Extreme Late Type

    I’d be interested to see if chronotypes have an effect on night vision, as well as hearing and smell. I know I have the best sight in near total darkness of anyone I know, and my hearing and smell are very much above average.

    I’d love to see how people whose little red arrow actually points to a spot outside the curve stack up when it comes to their senses.

    1. Interesting comment, Morghan! I’m also Extreme Late, and like you I have excellent sight in near total darkness (I also find it easier and more comfortable on my eyes to read in dimmer light and have perfect eyesight, which annoys everyone I know since I keep the lights low when everyone else wants to read as well), and I have an extremely acute sense of taste and smell, very prone to smell sensitivity, and my friends call me a bat because I hear things happening across the building at work and know when my patients have come into the clinic right across the clinic and down a story below me before the receptionist calls up to let me know.

      I too wonder if there is any correlation for Night Owls!

    2. Now THAT is an interesting connection I’ve never made before. I’m a late nighter, and I have better night vision than anyone I know. People get annoyed with me out camping because I’m always getting after them to turn their damn flashlights off, but even after an hour of stargazing for their eyes to adjust, they’re still stumbling in every hole, and hitting every tree once we start moving again. My hearing sucks. Tinnitus form my dad’s side, and hearing that gets worse with age on my mom’s. I can hear subtle or distant sounds pretty good, but find I have to ask people to repeat themselves more than others (I’m 33, so it’s not too bad yet). Since things usually get quieter at night, I’m guessing above-average hearing isn’t as important for late-night Grok. Smell-wise, it’s hard to compare to others, but I do find myself often sniffing the air when I detect subtle changes in the air around me, which people have pointed out as strange.

  49. Just had to comment… I loved this article SO much! It makes me feel so much less dysfunctional. I wasn’t able to take the quiz (their link to the shift worker site is still under construction). I have actually made my career work with me by going to a late swing shift. tough to align with my “tribe”, but much easier on my working life. Can’t wait to take the quiz. I just HAVE to be a GG (I say as I post this happily at 2AM! lol)

  50. So, according to the survey, I’m early moderate. Like many of you, it didn’t come as a big surprise to me and it seems to be working fine when I’m at home. Troubles occur when I travel to the western states. Now instead of waking up at 5:00, I’m up at 3:00, and, now what. There’s no god food to be had(I’m starving), no gym access(I’m ready to hit it), but there’s nothing to do… Do any of you have similar experiences, and, if so, what do you do to combat it?

  51. I’m skeptical of this questionnaire. I scored dead center but I almost guarantee that I am a full-on ‘GG’. All the time-related questions are regarding how late you DO stay up and how early you DO get up. None of the questions were like, “How late WOULD you stay up (and get up), if you had no obligations?” To which I would answer, “Way later than I do now.”

  52. I took the quiz. It was interesting. I always knew I was a night owl and know I have proof. I got the “moderate owl” rating. That also explains my need to ‘protect the tribe’. I’ve always felt very protective of those weaker than I; such as, elderly people and animals.

  53. thanks for this. I knew that I got up way early. The chronotype survery rated me as an extreme early type. that means that when I do stay up late, I still get up early. The recommendation is to get afternoon sunlight, which I do in the summer. Unfortunately, it’s almost dark out by the time I get off work this time of year. Will need to beef up the lighting. thanks

  54. I go to bed very late and get up around 6am…This is great information. I simply do not like to sleep however, I do know that it can be detrimental to health.

  55. Great info. Thanks for sharing. This is especially helpful to know there is still hope for the night owl.

  56. Does anybody know if LEDs are considered blue light? I know CFLs are. thx.

  57. I don’t need to *imagine* a lifetime of poor sleep. I’m there after 51 years of poor sleep. It is truly horrible.

  58. No Fair. I’m a shift worker. How do I work out what type of person I am? I get to have a crappy sleep pattern, AND a horrific eating pattern (Have you tried finding something decent to eat in the UK at 3am? !!) Your book is in the post……

  59. “You are an extreme late type”

    I am happy that I can now live the way which suits me best. The unfortunate is that it is possible because I was 40 yrs when I had to retire for (mental.. =severe depression) health reasons.

    I love my night life!! Quiet one though, I go for a run at 9 pm, “dinner” at 10/11 pm and then some tv/reading/web-time and to bed earliest at 3 am… and I get up at 11 am. As I don’t have to be any where before noon*, this suits me well.

    *) usually my first task is at 4:30 pm, once a week!

  60. The survey told me they were unable to calculate my chronotype since my survey data indicated that I may be suffering from a sleep disorder and that I should consult a health practitioner. I know I don’t get enough sleep, mostly because I refuse to go to bed when I should – plus I have a new puppy and an infant baby that are always up at the crack of dawn. As a result, I am almost always tired and it takes 0 minutes to fall asleep when I finally do go to bed… but that doesn’t mean I have a sleep disorder. I thought it just meant I wasn’t very bright! LOL

  61. You’ve mentioned the roles of male early and late risers in prehistoric times. What would you see as women’s early and late rising roles (since presumably their genes would have accounted for half of the genetic variability)?

  62. “Why would a chronotype that confers a higher risk of just about every negative health malady be selected for by evolution? How did the GG nucleotide even survive?

    Because it’s only in a society with a standard universal workday that begins at around 8 AM that the night owl is an unhealthy, lazy malcontent worthy of our disdain. For every one of the ‘negative health effects of being a night owl chronotype,’ I can link it directly to a lack of sleep:”

    This should be easy to test–presumably we should then see differences in the instances of these sleep-related maladies across cultures with differing standard work hours.

    Early–USA 8am start
    Moderate (!)–Australia–9am start
    Late–UK 10am start (or at least it used to be. Not sure if that’s still the case)

    There might also be differences in cultures where is is common/expected to rise early(ish) and go to bed late, with an afternoon siesta.

    Would love to see the results of this type of cross-cultural research.

    1. As a UK Night Owl, I wish our standard day began at 10!! MY usual day begins around 10am, sometimes a bit earlier, because i’m self employed, but the average day here begins at 9am or earlier. Most people I know are expected to be in and working between 8am to 8:30am latest, despite it being called a ‘9-5’.

  63. I think these results are skewed (sp?) because the researchers are German. When I did the survey it said that “The average chronotype (classified as “normal”) sleeps from 0:15-8:15.” (12;15 to 8:15AM.) Who in the US that has a “normal” job can sleep until 8:15AM when you have to be at work at 9AM? I always thought I was a real night owl, but I’m not by German standards.

    This also does not take into account that many “night people” start to feel tired at around 9 or 10PM, but often fight it and then get a cortisol surge or second wind that keeps them up to midnight or later.

  64. It says I’m a slightly late type and that I don’t get enough sleep during the work week (already knew that) and that I could benefit from an afternoon nap (as if). Very cool post though. The comments before this have been enjoyable to read however my sleep deprived brain is, regrettably, unable to contribute to the plethora of enlightened remarks. I…am going to bed. Ciao!

  65. I took the quiz and it said that I’m normal. Most people that know me probably wouldn’t describe in that way. Lol.

  66. Great post Mark, I did the survey but wasn’t surprised by the result; I am an extreme early type. For as long as I can remember I have woken before dawn and prefer to sleep early. If I try staying up late it makes very little difference; I only sleep for an hour or so past my natural wake-up time.
    I naturally wake between 2:30 – 3:30 am fully alert and that’s when I am most inspired. I love being outdoors before the sun rises and usually that’s my workout/run time.
    No substances apart from one coffee per day when I get up and no sugars, high gl or processed food in my diet. I wake up with some appetite but prefer to just have a cup of beef bone broth and eat after I have worked out.
    I would be interested in experimenting with lighting to see if it changed my sleeping pattern, but I am happy with doing what comes naturally for me.

  67. Mark, fantastic article! Very articulate manifesto against the discrimination of Night Owls.

    However, don’t forget to mention the caffeine. I find that after ditching caffeine, I have totally changed from a severe Night Owl who couldn’t go to bed before 3AM to an intermediate type who starts yawning at 9:30PM. Now I get 2-3 hours more sleep on average and after about half a year of this new regimen I look literally 10 years younger. This did not work while I was only “cutting back” on caffeine, it’s only started working when I went zero tolerance on caffeine (which was really, really hard, far harder than giving up sugar, actually). It’s important to cut out even the smallest amounts – I do not even drink or white green tea or eat chocolate nibs anymore.


  68. I disagree with my timing, it told me I’m a moderate early type, but this is only because I have to get at least 6 hours of sleep, and to do that I need to go to bed around 11 to get up at 6 to make it to work by 7:30. On weekends I have to get up and take the dogs out around that same time. If it were TRULY up to me, I’d be going to be around 12 and getting up around 8 or 9. I’ve always done my best work at night.

    I feel like if the chronotyping factored in people having to work instead of just asking when a person when to bed and woke up, their data would tell a different story!

  69. Slightly early type. I suppose I agree. I frequently go to bed quite late though and frequently, lately, after pretty unhealthy habits (drinking and eating late). The time “out” socially is probably all that keeps me awake. I can’t say it’s doing much for my appearance lately. Methinks healthier choices are in order!

  70. I don’t suppose you know when their link for shift workers will be up and running?
    I’m a night owl by nature, but for the last year I’ve been on a rotating shift; 7 days on second, one and a half days off, seven days on third shift, two and a half days off, 6 days on first shift, four days off, over and over and over. It’s not completely awful, but I know it can cause all sorts of bad health effects. I try to mitigate by use of melatonin and light box, and by staying up for the next shift. I read once that depressed people could sometimes benefit by staying up all night every so often, so I take some comfort in that. Depression has always been a companion of mine.

  71. It’s pretty disingenuous to think that all night owls can just go into business for themselves – or tell their bosses they want to start the day at 10am – and that that’s actually going to fly. Not everyone has the capital requires to start their own business – so to me that’s not a viable solution.

  72. Hmmm – it tells me I am a slightly early type. I’ve always considered myself a night owl and still do. My brain is sluggish in the morning and my mood always lower than later in the day. I have a tendency toward depression and love sleeping in on weekends – and going to bed later. I need over 8 hours sleep to feel really rested (don’t always get it though). I can stay up late with no problem as long as I can sleep in. I do go to bed before midnight these days but only because I have to get up at 6.30 and need sleep. When on holiday for any length of time I become nocturnal. So why does this test tell me I’m an early type? I don’t get it. The report seems to say that because I go to bed prior to midnight I’m an earlybird.

  73. Major nightowl, also my own boss :o)

    Right now though i need to sort myself out, as I literally didn’t wake up until gone 5PM today, which is plain silly..

    (my usual habit is to sleep around 4AM until around midday)

  74. My whole family on my dad’s side (myself included) are all night owls, and my moms side are all early risers. I’ve been saying for years that this must be genetic, since ancient tribes would need some people to stay up late to watch over the camp, and others to get up early to relieve them, and get the day started. Good to see I’m not the only one with that theory, and that there’s research to back it up.

    I’m a definite night owl. I can get up at noon, after 5 or 6 hours of sleep, and feel completely refreshed. Get up at 6 or 7, even with a full 8 hours, and I feel like I was hit by a bus. I’m fortunate enough to work a job with enough flexibility that I can come in/leave an hour later (which helps immensely), but it still feels like it reflects poorly on you for coming in at 10, when everyone else has been there since 8 or 9. One downside not mentioned is that when you’re a night owl, people think you’re just lazy (especially when your grandfather calls at 6am on a Saturday, and can’t believe you’re not awake). I’ll definitely do my part by spreading this article!

    On the flip side, there’s a lot of great things about being a night owl. Late nights around the camp fire, long after the early birds have gone to bed. A quiet, late night walk through the neighbourhood. Closing down the bar at a wedding reception. Missing rush hour because you’re going to/leaving work an hour late. The list goes on…

  75. I’d like to know the actual gene being discussed. 23 and me is a widely available genetic test that is incredibly cheap ( $100) which tests many thousands of genes. I’ve already done it and want to search the raw data and see objectively what it is if possible.

  76. Oh how I wish I could like or upvote some of these comments! I am an Extreme Late chronotype and have had to fight against society’s need to start everything at the crack of dawn my entire life. I am practically in tears reading this post and the comments, I feel like I have found home after crawling across the desert for years. I have all the issues of Late Chronotypes: poor glucose tolerance (I was borderline gestational diabetic when I was pregnant with my son and am borderline type 2 diabetic now), I have been fibromyalgia symptomatic for 15 years and diagnosed for 7, I live for pasta and bread (but also veggies – raw and steamed), and I have battled depression since my teens. I think of the possibilities of the knowledge of chronotypes and changing how we raise our children and the workplace expectations and so many other things that would be so much better… /sigh