Every human being is different from another and we can find out those differences based on factors like facial features, gender, race, and personality type. But do our sleep preferences also put us into separate categories? You might have often come across people who pass on remarks like “I am not a morning person”. Well, what does that even mean?
A lot of us do not prefer waking up early around 6 or 8 in the morning. On the other hand, some people have the habit of starting their day as soon as the first ray of light shows up. Similarly, some of us are night owls while others go to bed before the clock hits 12. Can this be linked with our personality type? Does being an introvert or extrovert decide our sleeping patterns for us?
A study done by researchers at University of Warwick has indicated a relationship between personality types, sleep patterns, and genetics as well. According to the study, “phenotypic measures of chronotype (sleep timings) and personality showed significant associations at all three levels of the personality hierarchy”. It has been found that the link between a person’s sleep preference and personality has a lot to do with genetics.
Let us first look at who exactly comes under the label of a “morning person”? Someone who wakes up at 6 a.m., takes a quick shower, goes for a walk or a jog, has breakfast, and then goes to work is defined as a typical morning person. Conversely, an evening person is someone who is capable of doing productive work in the evening and has a hard time getting up early in the morning. According to research done by biologist Christoph Randler at University of Education, Heidelberg, morning persons are more likely to have a successful career as compared to the evening people. “About 50% of a person’s chronotype is due to genetics”, says Randler. He surveyed 367 university students and found that an evening person tends to be smarter and more creative than a morning person.
The researchers at University of Warwick asked participants from the Estonian Biobank to answer questionnaires about their chronotype and personality. It was made sure that a participant’s personality was assessed by a person who knew the participant well. As a result, the phenotypic relationships between personality and sleep were identified. Researchers were also able to find genetic correlations with the help of summary statistics of genome-wide association studies. The questionnaire assessed the participant’s sleep patterns on a work and free day. An early chronotype is most productive in the early morning. A late chronotype experiences higher daytime sleepiness and does not perform well in the morning. The study reported that greater morningness was related to higher Conscientiousness.
A bivariate correlational analysis showed that except neuroticism, the chronotype was notably related to all FFM personality domains. While higher levels of Openness and Extraversion were observed in later chronotypes, earlier chronotypes had higher scores on Conscientiousness and Agreeableness. Participants who had low scores in Conscientiousness and high levels of Openness were associated with later chronotypes.
The relationship between chronotype and the FFM personality traits were analyzed at the facet level as well. “Some of the facets (e.g., E5: Excitement-seeking and A2: Straightforwardness) correlated more strongly with chronotype than their respective domains (i.e., Extraversion and Agreeableness), suggesting that personality facets may indeed add important information about relationships between personality and various life outcomes in addition to broader personality traits”, say researchers at University of Edinburgh, U.K. The study revealed that people with lower levels of self-discipline and higher levels of excitement-seeking and straightforwardness had higher chances of having later chronotypes. Additionally, people with higher scores in straightforwardness were more likely to be sincere and frank.
From the perspective of personality psychology, it was observed that personality traits might have an influence on chronotype by shaping people’s preferences for behaviors and social activities. “Less conscientious people more often engage in excessive alcohol use which typically happens on weekend nights”, found researchers at University of Manchester.
Anu Realo, professor from the Department of Psychology at University of Warwick explains, “Although personality traits are mostly stable over time, self-control interventions have shown promise in enhancing one’s level of self-control”.
“This might be particularly important, given that the tendency of morning people to be future-oriented is mediated by self-control. Thus, evening people could become more future-oriented and learn to value the importance of regular sleeping patterns in the long-term”, Realo says.
To conclude this, she suggests people apply strategies that would help them go to bed at earlier hours. “Turning off the lights earlier might also influence the timing of the release of melatonin as circadian rhythms are heavily influenced by light”.
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