Sleeping: Different Patterns for Different People

Most people notice that they feel more alert during certain parts of the day and have lower energy at others. This pattern has to do with a person’s “chronotype,” or personal circadian rhythm. They vary from person to person, although they tend to run in families. Most of the time, people fall into two groups: early birds and night owls. Early birds find it easy to wake up in the morning and feel they have the most energy early in the day. Some research suggests that the early bird’s body clock may run slightly faster than 24 hours. Meanwhile, a night owl’s body clock runs slower than 24 hours. They may find it hard to wake up the morning and feel alert, having the most energy later in the day, typically after 8 p.m. A person’s chronotype isn’t, however, set in stone. Circadian rhythms naturally change as we age. For example, the body clock shifts during adolescence, making teens want to go to bed later and sleep longer than younger children. Work and school schedules may dictate that a switch is needed from night owl to early bird. People can also alter their circadian rhythm to meet their needs, but are warned to do it slowly. For example, they should try waking up 15 minutes earlier each morning over the course of a week until a pattern is safely established. It's important to remember that whether you're an early bird or a night owl, getting enough sleep is crucial.