Our brain has a biological clock working on its own. Our sleep and wake cycle is managed by it. It’s regulated by environment so that we go to sleep and wake up on the same schedule everyday. It’s regulated by several hormones and the CLOCK gene.
That’s why we say sleep is always individualized which is partly determined by genetics and partly by environment. Different people have different sleep habits. Some scientists call it as sleep chronotype.
There are three different sleep habits
The OWLs (evening type)
Owl is a nocturnal bird. The owl type people are those who go to bed late and want to wake up late. Not only sleep, their body temperature is also regulated by their sleep profile. It attains peak at late evening. These people have difficulty getting up early and feel tired in the morning. These people perform best in the evening.
Do you need to sleep until late to wake up feeling bright and alert?
Do you have trouble falling asleep before midnight?
If you answered yes you are an owl.
The LARKs (Morning types)
Lark is a morning bird. It gets up very early and becomes active in morning. Similar to that, morning type people wake up early, rest and get refreshed, and work efficiently in the morning. The body temperature reaches the evening peak an hour earlier in morning types than in evening types.
Do you wake up alert by early morning?
Do you fall asleep easily if you go to bed early?
If you answered yes you are a lark.
The hummingbird (between two extremes)
These people are neither of these. But they are middle of these two sleep cronotype. These people are more adaptable to sleep schedules.
Why sleep habits are important?
The sleep cronotype or sleep habit is dependent upon your genes. It is difficult to change it. If we try to change it, it will cause some adaptation difficulty.
Why our sleep habits are like this
Long ago when we were hunters such diversity might have benefited our ancestors. So that at any point of time someone might be awake to protect the group from enemies. Sleep “shifts” would have shortened the window of time of vulnerability. Anthropologists call this the sentinel theory.
Several studies have now linked chronotype to increased risk of depression, obesity, diabetes, and even substance abuse. In a research that looked at more than 32,000 nurses, researchers found night owls were slightly more likely to be depressed than their morning lark colleagues.
Studies say owls are bit smarter. Larks are happier. But the stanza ‘early to rise and bed makes healthy wealthy and wise may not hold true always’. Each chronotype has some advantages and disadvantages.
The world supports morning larks so, night owls have to fight their innate sleep timing in order to adapt leading to sleep structure alterations, which leads to stress, depression, mood problems, sleep deficit etc. Most people don’t have the luxury of finding jobs that accommodate their chronotype.
For night owls who can’t re-adjust their work schedules, they need to be extra careful about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Because you can’t change your chronotype, as it’s genetically determined.
The sleep habit quiz
How to know which camp you belong? So let’s answer a small quiz. Click on the above link and answer the questions to know what is your sleep chronotype. Then please answer the poll for a sleep habit survey.
• Whether you’re a lark or an owl, you need seven to eight hours of sleep.
• we all need enough sleep, it doesn’t depend upon your sleep habit, otherwise you will experience several health problems. (Link)
• If you break your natural sleep habit/ sleep chronotype due to work or overuse of gadgets, you’ll be tired, less attentive, and not nearly as productive throughout the day.
Please read and share
1: Gale C, Martyn C. Larks and owls and health, wealth, and wisdom. Bmj. 1998 Dec 19;317(7174):1675-7.
2: Milfont TL, Schwarzenthal M. Explaining why larks are future-oriented and owls are present-oriented: Self-control mediates the chronotype–time perspective relationships. Chronobiology international. 2014 May 1;31(4):581-8.