How would you qualify yourself? Are you an early bird? Someone who likes being up and active in the early morning?
Do you feel mornings are more productive and do you wind down in the evenings towards a relatively early bedtime? Or are you a night owl? Someone who tends to wake up later, gaining energy and focus as the day progresses? Someone who likes to work (and play) in the evening hours?
You would think it is all about building habits either one way or the other; however it seems the tendency is deeply ingrained within us.
We are all familiar with the importance of a good night sleep. For some time now, scientists have discovered the circadian rhythms that regulate the sleep-wake cycle and many other bodily biological processes. These cycles are crucial for maintaining our overall health.
Here is a diagram explaining what happens during your sleep cycles.
Now that we know for sure the importance of sleeping, the question remains – what influences and regulates these cycles?
Meet the ‘wake up’ gene, PER1 that is believed to be responsible for activating the body’s biological clock in the morning. This gene directly influences our sleep patterns and circadian rhythm.
Following your variation of this PER1 gene, it will determine your tendency towards living as a night owl or an early bird.
Studies have shown significant variation among people.
• 60% of the population has a variant called adenine (A)
• 40% of the population has a variant called guanine (G)
As each individual has two sets of DNA chromosomes:
• 48% of the population will have a combination of A and G
• 36% of the population will have two As
• 16% of the population will have two Gs
According to the study results, people with the AA genotype—the early birds—tended to wake up 60 minutes earlier than those with the GG genotype. The third group—AG—tended to split the difference and wake right in the middle of this 60-minute timeframe.
So what does it mean for us and how could we use this information to better our health?
Learning about how our individual genotype affects our circadian timing, this information could be applied in any number of ways to manage health and the treatment of disease.
Knowing this, we could create sleep-healthy schedules, particularly for shift workers and people who travel frequently and experience jet lag.
You could rearrange your workload and only work on your most important projects when you are the most productive, either during the morning or evening depending on your gene variant.Or prevent bad habits from kicking in. For example, if you know you are more of a night owl and have an early wake up, you can schedule a power nap in your day.
Finding out what our natural tendency is in regards to sleeping and waking, could help us to shapeour daily life around what we are naturally predisposed to. Giving us a chance to use this information for the better of both our productivity and health.