Here’s How to Tell if You’re an Official Nightowl
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.
Worse, according to Mark’s research being a nightowl is associated with a host of health problems
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:
In type 2 diabetics, having a night owl chronotype is independently associated with poor glycemic control. Shift workers were excluded from the study so as not to confound the results.
Among fibromyalgia sufferers, night owl chronotypes are more affected by the syndrome than other chronotypes.
Night owls tend to eat unhealthy food, have more sleep apnea, and secrete more stress hormones.
”Evening types” (does this sound derogatory to anyone else?) are more likely to be depressed than other chronotypes.
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.
The good news is that there appears to be an accurate test to determine a person’s chronotype. According to Mark it is “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.” You can access it here.
I have not taken it myself and probably won’t since I am pretty damn sure I am an extreme nightowl. But I would be curious to know it anybody has taken it and what their reaction was?