Are You an “Owl” Or A “Lark?”

Updated January 21, 1999

A recent collaborative study by Drs. Emmanuel Mignot, Daniel Katzenberg and Ling Lin of the Stanford University Center for Narcolepsy at the Sleep Research Center; Drs. Terry Young and Laurel Finn of the University of Wisconsin and Drs. Joseph Takahashi, and David P. King of Northwestern University investigated a region of the human CLOCK gene as a predictor of “morningness” or “eveningness” preference in adults. The results were published in the October 1998 issue of Sleep.

The 410 participants were asked to complete a Horne-Ostberg Questionnaire to determine their morningness-eveningness preference. Blood samples provided DNA that showed the existence of genes in the same location that occur in more than one form. It was found that carriers of one genotype had lower Horne-Ostberg scores, indicating an increased preference for eveningness, while the other genotype scored significantly higher than the other group, indicating increased preference for morningness. This study showed for the first time that there is a genetic component for morningness and eveningness.

In our society, if you prefer to go to bed early and get up early, you are considered a “lark,” or morning person. If you prefer to stay up later and sleep later, you are considered an “owl,” or a night person.

The findings of this study and continuted research on this topic could have an important impact on insomnia research and therapy as well as work schedule organization.

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