What Your Sleep ‘Chronotype’ Says About Who You Are

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

A lot of us grew up in the shadow of that Ben Franklin truism, believing that the early birds out there were most likely going to be more successful than the night owls among us in pretty much every way.

But is that actually true? 

Could the time we wake up and go to bed really have a measurable effect on our lives?

Far-fetched as this might seem, there’s a surprising amount of evidence to back these sorts of claims up.

Recent research into so-called ‘chronotypes’ suggests that your natural sleep-wake cycle might have a bigger impact on your life than you think!

Image: a brain made up of ticking clocksWhat Is a Chronotype?

To understand how this all works and what it means, we’re first going to have to lay out the groundwork with some basic terms. 

All of have a biological rhythm of sleeping and waking that’s determined primarily by the sun, your environment, and your brain’s “master clock.”

This last item – a bundle of neurons tucked away in your hypothalamus’s suprachiasmatic nucleus – is partially in charge of a whole bunch of different bodily rhythms, including hunger, body temperature fluctuations, and, of course, sleep.

All of these processes are based around a roughly 24-hour routine known as your circadian rhythm.

Although your circadian rhythm can partially be influenced by environmental queues – if you consistently get up at 7am for two weeks, you’ll likely start waking up around that time on your own – each of us also comes born with our own ‘chronotype.’

This controls when we’re feeling at our best.

Basically, even if everybody in your office for some reason were to go to sleep and wake up at the exact same time as everybody else, certain people would feel more energetic and awake in the mornings, while others still wouldn’t hit their stride until the late afternoon, evening, or even night.

Although you probably have some amount of control over the times you wake up and sleep, there’s no fighting your chronotype.

Night Owls: Innovative, Rebellious Artists

Chronotypes control more than just your energy levels, though.

There’s actually a pretty substantial body of evidence to suggest that they play a role in personality, as well.

In one study, for instance, 360 university students were asked to fill out surveys on their affinity for mornings – or “morningness” – as well as a standard personality test.

The more nocturnal students showed a number of traits commonly associated with artists.

They were risk-takers, willing to act as independent thinkers and to work with unknown or symbolic information.

They were less willing to accept things the way they were, and instead cared more about imagination and innovation.

Another study on 120 other participants backed up these sorts of ideas.

Participants were given some standard creativity tests and scored based on the areas of Originality, Elaboration, and Flexibility.

Night owls scored higher in all through of these categories than their more morning-oriented counterparts, showing a link between nocturnal tendencies and creativity.

Night Owls and the “Dark Triad” Personality

It’s not all sunshine and the roses for the late-night TV fans among us, though.

In addition to all these sweet-sounding perks, night owls also have a higher tendency toward a cluster of dangerous characteristics known as the “dark triad.

If that sounds a little sinister or mysterious, that’s because it is.

Three sketchy characters make up this trio: a sense of entitlement and superiority (narcissism); manipulative charm (Machiavellianism); and callous, impulsive and sometimes harmful behavior towards others (psychopathy).

Before you start calling all your lie-abed friends psychopaths, though, you should realize that the researchers only found a link to secondary psychopathy.

While primary psychopathy results from a lack of empathy (you just don’t care how other people feel), secondary psychopathy is mostly just antisocial.

Either way, night owls have a lot on your plate with this dark triad, and will have to take special care not to fall into some extremely unhealthy habits.

Image: seductive shot of an attractive woman biting her lipThe Sex Lives of Night Owls

On a bit of a less serious note, there’s also been some research done into the sex lives of larks and night owls.

Late-night ladies, it appears, like to play things a little looser when it comes to who they’re taking home.

A study of 352 Poles found that night-owl women in particular were less uptight than their early bird friends.

These “ladies of the night” were more accepting of casual sex both in their attitudes and in their behavior. 

They also tended to place higher numbers in response to the question, “In everyday life, how often do you have spontaneous fantasies about having sex with someone you have just met?”

So fellas, if you’re looking for some good questions on a first date, you may want to ask her how late she stays up in a typical night!

(The same did not hold true for men, who remained pretty much the same in terms of sex drive regardless of whether they were morning or evening people.)

Early Birds: Respectful, Realistic, Controlled

Now, as for you early birds out there, you may well be off the hook.

There aren’t too many nasty surprises waiting for you when it comes to this stuff.

Basically, it’s all just the opposite of what the night owls are up to.

Larks have a decreased tendency toward all that dark triad business, and that personality study on those 360 college kids found that early birds just tend to be a lot more pragmatic.

Morning types like to get their information from tangible, concrete sources – none of that abstract foolishness.

They like to logically analyze this stuff to come up with the most likely conclusions, and they’re more controlled and respectful, particularly when it comes to authority.

They also tend to be more conformist than night owls, and also less creative.

They care about giving off a positive impression on the people around them, and they’re also more likely to try to make new information fit their current understanding of things, rather than completely change their point of view.

All in all, early risers tend to be more pragmatic and conservative in their perspectives than their friends out there burning the midnight oil.

Whatever Sleep Chronotype You Are, Blame Your Parents

The really annoying thing about these results is, there isn’t actually anything you can do to change your chronotype.

It all comes down to genetics – you’re born with this chronotype, and you will take it with you to the grave.

So night owls, feel free to blame the fact that you’re a manipulative psychopath on your parents.

Early birds, feel free to do the same if you find yourself wishing for a bit more creativity!

It’s all just written in the cards you’re dealt.

Image: woman on a bicycle stretches her arms out wide to the world, embracing the freedom of being aliveBut Also, Sleep Chronotype Isn’t Destiny

In all seriousness, it’s always important with things like this to realize you’re not just doomed to live out some predetermined fate just because you tend to feel more energetic in the mornings or afternoons.

First of all, chronotypes are a bell curve that most people fall somewhere in the middle of.

Just like most of us are able to drag ourselves out of bed on time for work or class no matter how much we love our late nights, we still have a lot of control over the people we become.

You also have to remember that you can’t always apply concepts like this on an individual basis.

It can be a lot of fun to look at your friends and tell them why their genes make them act the way they do, but it’s not like your chronotype is the only thing you are.

There’s a lot going on in that big old brain of yours, and in a lot of ways, we’re always free to change the way we act and think by forming healthier attitudes toward others, the world and ourselves.

Other Implications of Your Sleeper Profile

Your chronotype isn’t the only part of your sleeper profile that can have a major impact on your life, however.

For instance, certain studies have found that the very position you sleep in at night can be a tell-tale sign of deeper personality traits.

Much more important than this, though, are the issues that come with not getting a good amount of sleep.

 Both low amounts of sleep and low-quality sleep can lead to all kinds of issues in terms of your health, both physical and mental.

You know this – but even so, there’s an extremely slim chance you’re actually getting the kind of sleep you need.

It’s only understandable, after all.

There are only so many hours in the day, and sleep just often doesn’t seem like a very high priority.

If you’re looking to reap the benefits of better sleep without having to invest too many extra hours, it might be time you considered getting a new mattress. 

Check out our complete guide to this season’s best mattresses here.

Your sleep is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make, so it only makes sense to invest in a quality mattress!