Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's In Our DNA, Sleepy Time

It’s in my DNA.

I have always been a night owl, and I dislike getting out of bed before 9:00 or 10:00 am, and some people have a problem with that and think it strange. I’ve always said it is just the way I am. I like to be up late, I feel creative at night, and don’t care to go to sleep early. But I do want my eight hours, or close to it.

Studies have shown that we have a series of genes which determine whether we are night owls or what some call early birds, those who rise early.

I’m pleased about the new sleep study recently done by researchers at Belgium University de Liege. Coauthor of the study, Phillipe Peigneux and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor the brains of individuals, half who were considered night owls and the other half, early birds.

It has always been said that the early bird gets the worm, but this study may show otherwise. It appears the early to bed, early to rise people run out of steam sooner than those who stay up to the wee hours and sleep in mornings.

The researchers discovered no difference in the attention levels of the two groups at one and a half hours after waking, but at ten and a half hours of being awake the night owls were more focused , more alert, and quicker than the early birds.

The fMRI showed increased activity in two parts of the brain of the night owls at that ten and a half hour period, while performing a task that required sustained attention.

The differences showed up in the inner actions of two regions of the brain, including the area that is home to the master circadian clock, the 24 hour cycle or rhythm of the body, the suprachiasmatic nucleus area and locus coeruleus—which regulate the circadian signal. And in the night owls, the circadian signal was winning out over the pressure to sleep.

Then in the early birds, the sleep pressure prevents the expression of the circadian signal, according to researcher Peigneux, and those people were less able to keep attention focused.

The study shows that night owls have been shown to be more cleaver, have better memories and quicker minds, an even make more money.

Now the drawback to being a night owl is having to get up very early and cut into sleep time. There will be times that sleep has to be made up. But for those of us who have the opportunity to stay in bed and sleep in the mornings and who have learned to ignore the comments of laziness thrown upon us by some, it is great to allow our inner clock to tick at our own pace and not have an alarm sounding in our ear and jolting us out of peaceful sleep. I’ve never thought it was good to be awakened in that manner.

I’m glad my DNA allows me to enjoy the late nights and the sounds of crickets, train whistles, owls, and the quiet. I agree with what the study has shown in regards to myself. I can’t imagine going to bed at 7:00 or 8:00 pm when the night is just beginning. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Isn’t it interesting what our DNA does for us? Life is magical.



Sydney said...

Gee, I wish this news was broadcast on CNN. I am a natural night owl, but have had to change that for work -- though I freelance in creative fields so I can have as much flexibility as possible.

However recent marriage to a man who gets up at 6:40 and to bed sometimes at 10:30 but certainly by 11 has forced me over the last few years to get on his schedule or feel that separation... and I am now very sleepy by 9:30 PM and letharigc at hours when I am free to exercise or read. Too tired to do it. Though that can be due to so many contributing factors.

Interesting study though. Are the majority early birds? Because the whole world runs on their schedule... excluding the big cities. (Farmers I can understand)lol.

E. Michelle said...

Hi Linda,
I believe this research. I like to get up early and it's true, by late afternoon I am completely done for the day. My husband likes to get up at about 11 am and he can stay up to like 4 or 5 in the morning with no problem. Another thing that I wonder, is the quality of sleep they get. I've noticed a lot of early birds wake up a lot during the nighttime, including myself. While it seems the night owls maybe get a better quality of sleep? I guess that's something to consider anyway.

SILVER said...

"The study shows that night owls have been shown to be more cleaver, have better memories and quicker minds, an even make more money."

..uh oh.. i'm NOT a night owl person..