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Morning lark? Night owl? Blame it on your genes

Tokyo – If you find you can not get out of bed early in the morning, maybe you could blame it on your genes, a new scientific study found.

The research analyzed the amount of genetic data gathered from the DNA and DNA testing websites 23andme and the British "biobanks" to better understand what makes someone "morning lark" or "night owl".

"This study is important because it confirms that your morning or evening preference is at least somewhat determined by genetic factors," said Michael Weedon, a professor at Exeter University Medical School, who led the research.

The study is the largest of its kind – examining data from nearly 700,000 people – and found that significantly more genetic factors are associated with sleeping and building than previously known.

Scientists knew 24 genes associated with sleep timing, but a new study published on Wednesday in Nature Communications found that other roles play a role.

The analysis also showed that patients with a genetic tendency to sleep later have a higher risk of mental health problems such as schizophrenia, although the authors warned that more work is needed to understand this connection.

The initial phase of the research included analysis of the genes of people who reported themselves either as "morning person" or "evening person".

Because these terms may mean different things to different people, researchers looked at a smaller group of participants who used activity trackers.

They looked at information from trackers who wore more than 85,000 wrists in the UK to find objective data on their temples.

They found that the genes they identified could move the natural wake-up time by 25 minutes, but there were no apparent links between the genes and how long or how well people slept.

The study also explored why some genes affect when people sleep and wake up, discovering differences in how the brain reacts to light and the functioning of the inner clock.

In order to test long-term theories about the relationships between sleep patterns and certain illnesses, researchers also analyzed the correlation between "morning" and "evening" genes and various disorders.

They found that the genetic tendency to sleep and awakening earlier seems to be associated with a lower risk of depression and schizophrenia and improves well-being.

Weedon, however, acknowledged that it was not immediately clear whether a connection was a direct consequence of being a "morning man," or because of the fact that early in life they have easier time in the 9-5 work environment.

Scientists plan to find out whether "genetically-oriented people have worse results if they are active in the morning compared to those whose genetics and activity are offset," he said. – AFP

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