Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Morning Person or Night Owl: It's In the Genes

Have you ever wondered why some people spring up early in the morning while others drag their feet like zombies and need numerous pots of coffee to be prepared for the day. Or the complete opposite where people can stay up until the mere hours of the night while others struggle to catch the 11 o' clock news? Well, with the work from researchers at the University of Leicester used a study done on fruit flies to identify that these characteristics in humans and other organisms is genetically linked.

They conducted their research by studying the chronotype in fruit flies and took note of when they emerged from their pupal case. They discovered that most emerged during the morning hours while a smaller some emerged later in the day. The flies that were late to emerge were then bred together and what was found is that researchers were able to breed flies with the same chronotype as their parents meaning that early and late rising is genetic.

A genetic analysis was ran 24 hours prior to the emergence of the flies and what was found is that it was not just the same genes that were active during at different time in both types of flies but also that the genes were characteristically different themselves.  Researchers explained that different gene expression in the early risers and night owls is due to genetic variations in their DNA sequence. Meaning that the cause of some flies or humans arising later than others is not due to a delay in the genetic clock of individuals but is actually completely different in every aspect.

I found this article very interesting because while reading the article I came across the reason this research is being done and I found that it is going to be most beneficial for us as human beings to better understand our biological clock. We are all required to work "normal" shifts such as a 9 to 5 work day or school day and it is becoming more evident that everyone has a peak in their day when their performance is at its highest and that is what should be the basis of people's schedules.


  1. Interesting article! I would have never thought that being a morning person or a night person corresponds to genetic variations in our DNA sequence. I also remember hearing about studies expressing that teens perform at a better quality if school were to begin later in the morning, and that it is younger children who are more equipped to function at an earlier time for school. But I do also wonder what alters our "biological clock" as we get older, because when I was younger I used to be a burst of energy at the butt-crack of dawn, and now I can barely roll out of bed for my 11:20 class...
    So do patterns in behavior and changes in the environment also affect whether we are an early bird or a night owl?

  2. Hi Kate!
    I was actually thinking the same thing! I feel that it may also have to do with how we are raised. But then again that has to do with genetics as well. If our parents raised us to wake up early and be productive early in the day then that is what we become accustomed to do.But then again, if our parents are early risers then that is why they passed it along to us genetically. I think that the early bird and night owl argument could be argued as either biological or environmental or probably a nice mix of both!