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It’s not often hard to tell if someone is a morning person or a night owl—just check in at different times and see how they respond. But the factors that affect our sleep patterns (also known as our sleep chronotype) might go beyond just an innate feeling.
According to a new study from researchers at the University of Warwick, there’s a definite link between sleep patterns and personality, and a specific set of personality traits come together to fit the morning person type.
The personality traits that may make up a morning person.
Using responses to a questionnaire about personality and sleep timing, the researchers found that “morning people” were more likely to have higher scores on conscientiousness and lower ones in openness. They also found that people who went to bed and woke up earlier were more self-disciplined but less straightforward and less likely to seek excitement.
“Our findings have helped us to come up with two possible pathways of how personality might influence chronotype,” says postgraduate researcher Anita Lenneis, Ph.D., from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick. “Personality traits […] may influence chronotype through shaping people’s preferences for various social activities and behaviors which in turn, may influence what time people go to and get out of bed, or personality may influence chronotype through active decisions people make regarding their sleep.”
Do personality traits determine sleep chronotype (and can you change yours)?
Though the research team found a pattern in the questionnaire responses, Lenneis points out that it doesn’t establish causation—the link may be directional in the other way. “It could also be that chronotype influences personality or that chronotype and personality mutually influence each other,” she explains.
The deep and restorative sleep you’ve always dreamt about*
The researchers also looked to into the way genes might play a role and found sleep patterns may be partially due to genetic factors.
“The findings of the genetic correlations support this view,” she continues, “but further studies will be necessary to better understand the shared genetic mechanisms between the two constructs as well as the causality of their relationships.”
If you’re not entirely sure what your chronotype is (or what it means beyond just being a morning or evening person), here’s a quick overview:
- The bear: Someone whose sleep schedule is largely determined by the rising and setting of the sun.
- The wolf: An evening person—someone who’d sleep through mornings if they could.
- The lion: The classic morning person.
- The dolphin: Those who struggle with both ends of the sleep cycle—waking up and falling asleep.
Once you determine your chronotype, you might be wondering if it’s possible to change it. And the good news (for those of us who strive to be one of those productive morning people) is that there’s hope: “Not only have we shown there is a relationship between chronotype, personality and partially your genes, our findings also suggest that it might be possible to change your chronotype,” explains Anu Realo, MSc, Ph.D., a professor from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, “or at least train yourself into a different more socially convenient sleep pattern by increasing your self-control.”
So there you have it: It’s not impossible to change your ways (and potentially your personality) to become a morning person if you really want to—and these tips might help.