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“I love my job, but I effin hate mornings.”

“ Oh yah, mornings…It’s been a long-standing feud.”

Overhearing this discussion made me ponder what chemical is responsible for making some people morning zombies and other people annoyingly chipper morning elves? I used to think morning haters were mostly kids who stayed up too late partying or watching TV. Then I learned that “biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.”

One estimate in Psychology Todayclaims that “up to 40% of high school and college students are sleep deprived.” There are a number of obvious reasons for this: increased academic pressure, outside jobs, school activities and sports, social networking and partying. But there is also that annoying little biological fact—some people are simply wired to a later circadian rhythm.

Overview of biological circadian clock in huma...

Image via Wikipedia

I confess to being one of those jerks who pops out of bed with or before the sunrise. I like a morning cup of Joe, but it’s not necessary. I am supremely content to move from the bed to the chair by the window and watch morning unfold while I catch up on Internet reading or journaling. The coffee is secondary. If I’m alone in the boonies I forego the coffee in favor of an early morning photo shoot. I don’t remember ever feeling the need to sleep much beyond 7 AM, even when I was a teen, even if I’d been partying till 4 AM. By 7 AM, I need to be upright and engaged with the day.

I wonder if teenage late morning zombies necessarily grow into adult morning zombies. Is the tardy circadian rhythm a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it the well-worn groove of habit? Or is it something people are born with—an inevitable characteristic like the color of our hair?

How about you? Are you a morning zombie or a morning elf? Has your natural sleeping rhythm changed through the years?