It’s often not hard to tell if someone is a morning person or a night owl. Just check in with them at different times of day or night and see how they respond. But according to a recent study from researchers at the University of Warwick, there’s also the potential that sleep timing and personality are linked—at least in early risers. Here’s what the team found.
Assessing sleep timing and personality.
Using responses to a questionnaire about personality and sleep timing preferences (also known as chronotype), the researchers concluded that “morning people” were more likely to have higher scores on conscientiousness and lower ones on 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.”ADVERTISEMENT
Do personality traits determine 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 researchers also looked into the way genes might play a role and found sleep patterns may be partially dictated by 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, but 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.”
The bottom line.
So there you have it: It’s likely possible, to a certain extent, to change your ways (and potentially your personality) to become a morning person. Looking to get started? These quick tips might help.