Night Owls and Early Birds: Is it in Your Genes?

Do you stay up late and have a hard time waking up in the morning? It may not be your fault. It may be your genes!

Written by: Jamie November 22, 2019

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

A night owl is someone that despite following healthy sleep habits, has a hard time falling asleep at what most people consider a “normal bedtime”. The key here is healthy sleep habits. If you use your phone late at night, consume caffeine or alcohol, etc., then you might struggle with sleep even if you are not genetically a night owl.

An early bird is someone that often goes to bed early, like nine or ten, and wakes up early, like five or six, in the morning. This would be your natural sleep cycle. If you are an early bird, you probably don’t need to set an alarm to wake up at these times.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. Also, the older you are, the earlier you typically wake up.

How do genes play a role?

Over 350 of your genes can affect your sleep patterns. We will focus on most studied one, CRY1.

About 10 percent of the population has a gene mutation in CRY1 that makes their bodies’ clocks run 2 to 2.5 hours slower than average.[1] The average body clock is about 24 hours, about the same as a day. Most people function very well in this time period. A person with the CRY1 gene mutation has a longer clock and will have a hard time feeling like they get enough sleep. [1] If you are one of these people, you will often also have a hard time going to sleep early and will wake up later than average.

Why should you care?

You can run into many different health problems when you are chronically sleep deprived. Night owls often have delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). DSPD has been associated with anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other diseases. It is a good idea to take precautions if you are also genetically predisposed to these diseases.  Luckily genes aren’t everything and you can take action to help correct sleep deprivation.

What can you do about it?

  • Follow a healthy sleep schedule. This is especially important if you have the CRY1 mutation.
    • Got to bed and wake up within an hour of the same time every day, even on weekends.
    • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and large meals too close to bedtime.
    • Avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bed.
    • Aim to get as least 7 hours of sleep each night.
  • If you are a night owl or an early bird, try to work with your body’s natural schedule.
    • If possible, schedule classes in the morning if you are an early bird or in the afternoon if you are a night owl.
    • Consider a job that allows you to follow a sleep schedule as close to your natural cycle as possible.
  • Review your genetic predispositions. If you have not done testing, get your genes tested with Secret Sequence!

What comes next?

New research on the topic is being done all the time. You have the ability to learn more about your DNA, so why wouldn’t you want to learn what changes can make you a healthier you?

One more important reminder: you need to be in control of who you share that information with. Secret Sequence will never sell your data—we never even ask for your name! Safely learn more about yourself and your health: order our reports today to learn more about your genes!

*Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for information purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.


[1] Patke, et al. Mutation of the Human Circadian Clock Gene CRY1 in Familial Delayed Sleep Phase DisorderCell, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.03.027