New Research Shows There Aren't Just Morning or Night People Out There

A recent study has identified two new categories for sleepers.

middle-aged man napping on yellow couch, ways to be a healthier man

You've probably gone you're whole life identifying as either a morning person or an evening person, depending on when you thrive and tend to be most productive. However, there's a lot of time in between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., leaving those who kick into high gear at 3 p.m. wondering where they fall. Now a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences is providing answers.

Previous research has divided people up into two distinct sleep "chronotypes" (i.e., how your circadian rhythm dictates your energy levels). Those established chronotypes are "larks," who are at their most alert in the morning, and "evening owls," who have more energy at night. But for this new study, researchers in Belgium and Russia asked more than 1,300 people to complete an online survey that measured their levels of alertness based on the presumption that they got a good night of sleep and woke up at around 7:30 a.m.

They found that while many people are indeed either larks or evening owls, they also identified two new chronotypes: The "afternoon" types, who are most alert from 11 a.m. until around 5 p.m., and the "nappers"—who feel very alert early in the morning, become very sleepy around 3 p.m., and then continue to be very alert until around 10 p.m.

"Evidence is accumulating for the possibility to distinguish more than two distinct chronotypes, i.e., people would be neither morning nor intermediate nor evening types," the paper concludes, adding that the "two further types … were not uncommon."

The study is limited by the fact that the results were self-reported, but it also adds to a growing call from experts that it's best to manage one's day according to their chronotype. If not, the consequences can be very serious.

For example, a recent study found that night owls are more likely to suffer from obesity, insomnia, and ADHD. They are also at greater risk for developing addictive behaviors, antisocial tendencies, and mental disorders than their lark counterparts because of something called "social jet lag"—which describes the feeling you have when your biological clock isn't in sync with society's schedule. Another recent study found that night owls have a 10 percent increased risk of dying from any cause. In both cases, researchers theorized that the central issue was that going against one's natural chronotype could cause potential physical and mental health issues.

All of that being said, it is also possible to train yourself to be an early riser, or to take a well-timed power nap if need be. For more on this, read up on what Science Says Is the Length of a Perfect Nap.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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