Q: I’m a night owl, but during the week I have to get up early for my morning commute to work. What can I do to become a morning person?
Good sleep is hard to come by. According to the federal government, more than one-third of adults routinely fail to get a healthy amount of sleep, defined as a minimum of seven hours a night. If your night owl tendencies are ruining your sleep, there are steps you can take to become more of a morning person.
The first thing to keep in mind is that your bedtime to some extent is influenced by your genetics. Everyone has a personal biological rhythm, or chronotype, that determines their optimal time to fall asleep and wake up. Studies show that there are many genes that nudge some of us to be morning people, some of us to be night owls, and others to fall somewhere in between. One study published in the journal Nature Communications, for example, analyzed the sleep habits of nearly 700,000 people and identified a large number of genes that play a role in whether someone is a morning person or not. On average, people who carried the highest number of genetic variants for “morningness” tended to fall asleep and wake up about half an hour earlier than people who carried the fewest.
“Your circadian rhythm tendencies are genetic and can’t really be changed,” said Dr. Ilene M. Rosen, a sleep medicine doctor and associate professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, referring to the body’s innate 24-hour circadian cycles that govern when we wake up and fall asleep. “But the good news is that we can give our clocks some cues that influence it a little bit.”