Why you don’t have to force yourself to be a morning person

We all heard it: if you want to be successful, get up early in the morning. It’s no wonder Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up at 3:45 a.m. and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson at 5:45 a.m. “Who gets up early, God gives him!”

But does this mean that all successful people, without exception, get up early in the morning? And that the path to success is booked for you if you are horrified at the mere thought of waking up, exercising, planning your day, eating breakfast and completing the first item on the list before 8 in the morning? Let’s figure it out.

According to statistics, about 50% of the population is actually focused not on the morning or evening, but somewhere in between. However, about one in four of us tends to be an early riser, and another one in four is a night owl. And these types differ not only in that some nod off at 10 pm, while others are chronically late for work in the morning. Research shows that morning and evening types have a classic left/right brain divide: more analytical and cooperative thinking vs. creative and individual.

Numerous studies have shown that morning people are more assertive, independent, and easier to make contact. They set themselves higher goals, more often plan for the future and strive for well-being. They are also less prone to depression, smoking or drinking compared to night owls.

Although morning types can achieve more academically, night owls tend to have better memory, processing speed and higher cognitive abilities – even when they have to complete tasks in the morning. Night people are more open to new experiences and are always on the lookout for them. They are often more creative (although not always). And contrary to the adage – “early to bed and early to rise, health, wealth and intelligence will amass” – studies show that night owls are just as healthy and smart as morning types, and often a little richer.

Still think early risers are more likely to get the job of CEO of a company? Don’t rush to set your alarm for 5am. Dramatic changes in your sleep pattern may not have much effect.

According to Oxford University biologist Katharina Wulff, who studies chronobiology and sleep, people feel much better when they live in the mode to which they are naturally inclined. Studies show that this way people manage to be much more productive, and their mental abilities are much wider. In addition, giving up natural preferences can be harmful. For example, when owls wake up early, their bodies are still producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. If during this time they forcibly rearrange the body for the day, many negative physiological consequences can occur – for example, varying degrees of sensitivity to insulin and glucose, which can lead to weight gain.

Research shows that our chronotype, or internal clock, is largely driven by biological factors. (Researchers have even found that the circadian rhythms of human cells examined using in vitro technology, i.e. outside a living organism, correlate with the rhythms of the people from whom they were taken). Up to 47% of chronotypes are hereditary, which means that if you want to know why you always wake up at dawn (or, conversely, why you don’t), you might want to look at your parents.

Apparently, the duration of the circadian rhythm is a genetic factor. On average, people are tuned to a 24-hour rhythm. But in owls, the rhythm often lasts longer, which means that without external signals, they would eventually fall asleep and wake up later and later.

In an effort to figure out what the secret of success is, we often forget about a couple of things. First, not all successful people are early risers, and not all early risers are successful. But more importantly, as scientists like to say, correlation and causation are two different things. In other words, there is no evidence that waking up early is beneficial on its own.

Society is arranged in such a way that most people are forced to start working or studying early in the morning. If you tend to wake up early, then you will naturally be more productive than your peers, as a combination of biological changes, from hormones to body temperature, will work to your advantage. Thus, people who like to get up early live in their natural rhythm and often achieve more. But the body of an owl at 7 in the morning thinks that it is still sleeping, and behaves accordingly, so it is much more difficult for night people to recover and start working in the morning.

The researchers also note that since evening types are most likely to function when their bodies are not in the mood, it is not surprising that they often experience low moods or dissatisfaction with life. But the need to constantly think about how to improve and smooth corners can also stimulate their creative and cognitive skills.

Because the cultural stereotype is that people who stay up late and wake up late are lazy, many are desperately trying to train themselves to be early risers. Those who do not are more likely to have more rebellious or individualistic traits. And changing timeline doesn’t even necessarily change these traits: As one study found, even though nocturnal people tried to become early risers, it didn’t improve their mood or life satisfaction. Thus, these character traits are often “intrinsic components of the late chronotype”.

Research also suggests that sleep preferences may be biologically related to several other characteristics. For example, researcher Neta Ram-Vlasov from the University of Haifa found that creative people have more sleep disturbances, such as frequent waking at night or insomnia.

Still think you’d be better off training yourself to be a morning person? Then exposure to bright (or natural) light in the morning, avoidance of artificial lighting at night, and timely intake of melatonin can help. But keep in mind that any changes to such a plan require discipline and must be consistent if you want to achieve a result and consolidate it.

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