The ringing of an alarm clock can be a dreadful sound, aggressively yanking people out of a deep sleep. Some folks, however, are spared the jarring noise. The morning person naturally wakes up feeling refreshed, alert, and ready to start the day. It’s a lifestyle preference, many believe, but science says otherwise. Whether or not you can become a morning person has little to do with choice and a lot to do with your DNA, or more specifically, your chronotype.
“It’s not too long ago that the chronotype was a very vague concept. It basically was how you felt about yourself—whether you felt you were a morning person or an evening person,” says Nick Littlehales, advisor on sleep to several corporations and professional sports teams and founder of SportSleepCoach.com.
“But it’s now proven genetically that there is a certain set of the population that is two to three hours behind the rest.”
One of the leading scientists examining chronotypes is Till Roenneberg, Ph.D., of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. In the mid-2000s, he and his staff examined the sleep-wake times of more than 55,000 people. They found within that group, small sets of people followed pretty extreme schedules—night owls preferred to go to bed as late as 5 a.m., which is about the same time that very early wakers (described as larks) get up. The majority of people went to sleep sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., w…