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Science News: Are you an owl or a lark?

– K.J., Editor

Some people have a life pattern that resembles an owl; they go to bed late and wake up late and are consequently more active at night. Others have a life pattern that resembles a lark because they go to bed early and wake up early and are therefore more active during the day. Scientists call this “chronotype”; being alert and energetic or tired and sleepy at a given time of day. I must admit that I am a night owl. While everyone else is asleep, I like to practice my hobbies and catch up on chores (quietly) until the early morning.

Interestingly enough, most people are not strictly like a lark or an owl, but are a mixture of the two. A research team at the University of Warwick, England, showed that chronotype is related to personality, which are both influenced by genetics and other factors such as family environment and profession. So, if you want to change from an owl chronotype to a lark chronotype or vice versa, it is definitely possible. But the question is, how?

To change from an owl chronotype to a lark chronotype in three weeks, a research team consisting of UK and Australian researchers created the following plan: 1. Go to bed 2-3 hours earlier every day and set an alarm for 2-3 hours before normal waking time; 2. Eat breakfast as soon as possible after getting up and get lots of sunshine in the morning, but reduce daylight exposure in the evening; and 3. Eat dinner no later than 19:00. However, the researchers didn’t mention how people with the lark chronotype can become more like owls...

For owls who work typical day shifts (09:00-18:00 every weekday), this plan just might help to improve alertness during the day. If you are a lark, please have some sympathy for any owls in your life, and maybe offer them a cup of morning coffee.

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