Mind & Body

Are You a Morning or a Night Person? Take This Questionnaire to Find Out

You'd think it'd be obvious if you were a morning or a night person. Do you get up early, or stay up late? But regardless of your actual sleep schedule, your body has its own ideal schedule. Whether those two schedules line up can mean the difference between starting your day energetic and chipper or smashing the snooze button a few dozen times.

Meet the Two Chronotypes

Sleep scientists never actually talk about morning and night people. Instead, they discuss birds — specifically, morning "larks" and "night owls." Generally, larks are people who ideally wake up before eight, even on weekends. Night owls are people who prefer to stay up past 11 and wake up after eight whenever they can.

Which one you are isn't just a matter of taste. It's actually a matter of your chronotype: that is, your internal clock settings, which are at least partially genetic.

Often, when we talk about internal clocks, we talk about circadian rhythms: the wide variety of biological processes that keep the body on a roughly 24-hour sleep cycle. For instance, in the morning, the body releases cortisol, an alertness hormone that helps you wake up; at night, when you're winding down, your system releases melatonin, which helps you sleep. Even skin has circadian rhythms — it heals faster during the day when we're most active.

We don't all have identical circadian rhythms, though. The timing of our cortisol and melatonin releases depends on pacemaker cells in our brains, whose oscillations keep time for us.

Pacemaker cells are complex. They respond to external cues, including daylight and alarm clocks, which means they can adapt to time zone changes and work schedules. At the same time, they're not completely pliable; they're partially controlled by our chronotypes, which have a genetic component. A recent study of almost 90,000 people's genomes, for instance, found that people's chronotypes were reliably linked to genes affecting circadian rhythms and light sensitivity.

This all helps explain how a person's body can switch from California time to Tokyo time and still have trouble waking up for work in both time zones. It also has major health implications. Night owls may have trouble adapting to the rhythms of a society whose workday starts at nine. Often, they sleep too little — a risk factor for myriad health problems — and violate their internal clocks, which also heightens risk for heart disease and other ailments. Understanding your chronotype can help you take care of yourself.

So ... what's yours?

Related Video: What Makes Someone a Night Owl?

The Questionnaire

You can find out with this Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, commonly used for sleep studies. It consists of 20 multiple-choice questions, which cover topics like how you would sleep if you had complete freedom to choose your schedule, when you get hungry in the morning, and how much you rely on your alarm clock.

The questionnaire results page will give you a score between 16 and 86. If you score below 41, you're a night owl; if you score 59 or above, you're a lark. People who score in between 42 and 58 are "intermediate types," which just means their ideal routine falls somewhere in between early-rising and staying up into the wee hours. That's most people, by the way — like many human traits, chronotype lies on a bell curve that puts most of the population between the two extremes.

In addition to your score, the results page offers an educated guess on when your body releases melatonin and an estimate of your natural bedtime.

Keep in mind as you review your results, though, that you don't have to go to sleep at your natural bedtime, or wake up at a time that fits your chronotype. It's a predisposition, but it's not your fate. It can even change as you age — many night owls start rising earlier as they get older.

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Learn more about the science of sleep in "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker, Ph.D. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Mae Rice April 5, 2019

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