Whether you stay up late or get up at sunrise isn't just a personal habit. Science has discovered our sleep patterns are actually a preference largely programed into us by our DNA. The difference between larks and night owls, in other words, runs deep. So deep, in fact, that your preference for when you sleep (what scientists call your chronotype) can actually predict your personality.

Several studies have rounded up thousands of participants and asked them to take standard tests to uncover both their chronotype and their personality. Striking correlations emerged.

If you're a lark...

Those who rise with the sun tend to share a host of traits. This line of research reveals that if you like to get up early.

  • You tend to be more conscientious. "Morning people are basically conscientious people," write the author's of one huge study. "Among other characteristics, conscientious individuals are generally thorough and systematic, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors."

  • You are also more cooperative and persistent.

  • You are a go-getter. "There is a positive correlation between morningness and need for achievement," the same study found.

  • You're probably not a procrastinator. "Morningness has been found to be negatively related to indecision and procrastination," explains Psychology Today.

All of which might make morning people feel rather good about themselves, but being a later riser has it's advantages too.

... and if you're a night owl 

Those who like to stay up to all hours are, on average, quite different from chipper earlt risers. If you struggle to get out of bed, it's likely

  • You seek out novelty.

  • You score higher on measures of 'self-transcendence.' "This finding is in line with studies linking eveningness to creative thinking. Similarly, eveningness also correlates with the trait of openness, albeit weakly," notes Psychology Today.

  • You're a bit of a risk taker and may have an addictive personality. Your fearlessness "may act as a risk factor for addictive behaviors, like smoking. According to research, evening types drink more alcohol and smoke more cigarettes compared to morning types," Psychology Today also says.  

  • You have a tendency towards procrastination. "Procrastinators self-identified more as 'night' persons as opposed to 'day' persons in comparison with non-procrastinators," note the authors of one study.

Difference makes the world go round.

It's no shock that employers might generally prefer conscientious, punctual, and agreeable morning people. But it would be a grave mistake to conclude from these findings that morning people are somehow better than late risers overall. Scientists believe that in our distant past different chronotypes served an important function -- because we have different sleep preferences someone was always up and alert to watch out for prowling lions and other dangers. Differing sleep schedules still have their uses today.

While you might not want to hire a sleep-eyed night owl to operate heavy machinery at 5 a.m., the characteristics associated with this chronotype, like openness and risk taking, are also strongly associated with creativity. In fact, staying up late is actually linked to high intelligence, as well.

So while night owls might struggle to open a shop bright and early, they're often just the sort of people you want around if you're looking for bold new ideas. Difference is rarely about good and bad. Every characteristic has its tradeoffs, which make it useful in some settings and harmful in others. Making the most of your chronotype and associated personality is a matter of knowing yourself and finding situations that play to your strengths (even if the world sometimes makes that hard for confirmed night owls).

Published on: Sep 7, 2018