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Night owls: It’s genetic

No more being told that I’m lazy for my night-owl tendencies. Turns out, I’ve got a good excuse: It’s genetic:

After struggling her whole working life to adapt to the dawn alarm that went with Denmark’s 8-to-4 workday, Dr. Kring, whose PhD was on work-life balance, began researching what was so different between her and morning people. She soon latched on to a University of Surrey study showing that early risers are more likely to have the long form of a gene called Period 3, while late risers are more likely to have a short form.

Dr. Kring has labelled the larks A-people and the owls B-people.

“B-people are not lazy,” she says. “It’s genetic.”

This year, Ms. Kring launched B-Society, a group devoted to lobbying companies to stagger start times and better accommodate those whose circadian rhythms are a little delayed. In just six months, the group attracted 5,500 members and sprouted offshoots throughout Europe. The group’s website is adding a job board on which B-friendly openings throughout the world will be posted.

“B-people are just as productive as anyone else,” she says, “but they are productive at different times of day.”

[ . . . ]

Researchers have found that about one in four people carry the short version of the Period 3 gene, a physiological difference that delays their natural wake-up time by a couple of hours. By contrast, little more than one in 10 carry the early-bird form of the gene (the rest of the population falls somewhere in the middle).

I’ve known for years that mornings and I do not get along. I used to write my best university papers at 3am, and schedule all my classes in the afternoons or evenings in my student days.

Since joining the “real world”, though, it’s become blazingly obvious that business is geared to morning people. I drag myself bleary-eyed out of bed in the mornings, oh-so-reluctantly, and usually do my best to stumble through the morning without doing anything too blazingly dumb. After spending my days feeling tired, my energy level finally kicks in around 10pm… right around the time I ought to be going to sleep. Feeling sharp and productive, I tend to stay up far too late, only to smack the alarm clock in anger the next morning, much too soon.

The simple answer that people keep telling me – go to bed earlier – just doesn’t work for someone who’s always tired except between 9pm and 3am, my self-identified productivity window.

For me, being a night owl is somewhat like being left-handed. I can cope just fine as a lefty in a world of righties, just as I manage to cope as a night owl trapped in a day-job world. But sometimes it’s nice to imagine if everyone were forced to accommodate me for a change.

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