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Being either a ‘morning person’ or a ‘night owl’ could all be down to genes, study finds

Morning people are also less likely to need more than eight hours of sleep a night or to sleep walk

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Wednesday 03 February 2016 11:41 GMT
( George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Do you spring out of bed in the morning or hit the snooze button on your alarm every five minutes? Whichever your disposition, new research suggests you may not have any control over being a morning person or a night owl – it could all be in your DNA.

In a study of more than 89,000 people, personal genetics company 23andMe has identified 15 genetic variants associated with “morningness” and four that have not previously been connected to sleep behaviour.

While 56 per cent of participants described themselves as “night owls,” women and adults over the age of 60 were more likely to be “morning people”.

by 23andMe.

The research defines “morningness” as being governed by differences in circadian rhythms – an individual’s sleep-wake cycles running within a 24-hour day – and found that participants who identified themselves as “morning people” were significantly less likely to have insomnia, require more than eight hours sleep a night, and were less likely to suffer from depression than those who termed themselves “night owls”.

“Morning people” were also found to be less likely to sleep soundly, less likely to sweat while sleeping and less likely to sleep walk.

Published in Nature Communications, the research also found that after taking into account the effect of age and sex, morning people were more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI).

“Some circadian rhythm genes we identified have been studied in model organisms, but much less so in humans,” said David Hinds, Ph.D, a Principal Scientist and Statistical Geneticist at 23andMe.

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