Being a morning person or a night person might actually be genetic
Ever wondered why you love staying up late or, alternatively, why you feel relatively energized it comes to getting ready in the morning? Turns out the secret might be in your DNA.
According to a new study from 23andMe, a genetics startup based in Silicon Valley, people who consider themselves to “early birds” or “night owls” have genes that say the same thing. So, thank you parents if you’re happy with the hours you keep.
After first asking if they considered themselves a morning or evening person, the study tested the genes of 90,000 individuals and compared their answer to their genome. Researchers specifically concentrated on the genes linked to our preferences, which are located in roughly 15 regions within the human genome, finding that seven of those regions lay near the genes that dictate our circadian rhythms, or the physiological processes that all living beings experience over the course of a 24-hour day and determine when we go to sleep or when we feel most awake. Some of the gene regions also fell in the area of the genome that determines how our brain translates light into signals to go to sleep or wake up.
Those people with genes most strongly linked with being a morning person were twice as likely to consider themselves an early bird. Meanwhile, results weren’t so great for night owls with the genes to prove it: They were more likely to suffer from insomnia and two-thirds of them were more likely to have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder characterized by irregular breathing while asleep.
“We think of our preferences as things that we come up with — things that are kind of spontaneous parts of who we are — but they do have a basis in biology,” 23andMe’s David Hinds and a co-author of the study told The Verge. “I think it’s just very interesting for people to see how their biology influences who they are.”
Hinds and his team hope to take the study a step further in the future in the hopes that they might be able to pinpoint the specific genes that dictate morning and evening preferences, which have a huge effect on how people go through their day. Until they do, we suggest calling up your parents to thank them (or harangue them) over your sleeping preferences.