It’s long been suggested that teenagers’ school days should start later on account of the adolescent’s true body clock. Indeed, 8 AM, which is when most schools start, is way too early. Paul Kelley, one of the leading researchers on the subject, fears rampant sleep deprivation among teens and says that we need to pay better attention to our body’s circadian rhythm.

And yet, while Kelley’s research doesn’t focus on adults, shouldn’t we all be more aware of our body’s internal clock, which helps us understand when when we’re most awake, and therefore when we have the greatest amount of concentration? At this point, who among us doesn’t know if we’re a night owl or an early bird?

In spite of this close and personal knowledge, whether we prefer to rise early or sleep late typically has absolutely no bearing on our daily schedules. Unfortunately. Raise your hand if you can email your boss in the morning and let her know you’ll be working from 11 to 7:30 instead of 8:30 to 5.

News of a recent finding reported by Business Insider that your preference is actually written into your DNA could potentially be a major workplace game-changer.

A consumer genetics company, 23andme, studied 90,000 people’s genomes and concluded that 15 genes are associated with the night owl or early bird preference. The study’s findings are at turns interesting and predictable: More women than men report being morning people, and people over 60 were much more likely to prefer mornings than people under 30. Also, there are more night owls in New York than in New Hampshire.

The gene analysis revealed that seven of the studied genes can be linked to being a morning person because of their role in circadian rhythms. Some of the genes were also found to be in close proximity with ones that play a role in our eyes sensing (and accepting?) light. As an early riser, I’ve truly never understood the freak-out some people experience when they’re exposed to light first thing in the morning. But I’m starting to get it: It’s about genetics.

And it puts things in perspective. If you’re a night owl whose boss regularly calls 8 AM meetings, which you struggle to arrive to on time, it may not just be because you went to bed late or slept through your alarm, but because your body’s circadian rhythms don’t have you awake at 7 AM. Yes, as an early riser, I might be ready to go to bed at 10 PM on the dot every night, but if you’re a night owl, falling asleep at that hour probably sounds ludicrous; you’ll be lucky if you can turn in at 11. We’re way past due making the late risers feel like they’d be so much better off if only they’d succumb to being morning people.

In fact, I think we know enough now that it’s time to push even harder for flex hours. Even if you don’t mind those early starts, wouldn’t your life be easier if all your co-workers were able to work at their own peak hours? Imagine the creativity, the innovation, the sheer efficiently of everyone being awake and producing on their own clock!

I think we can all agree that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter what time you arrive if you’re productive during the hours that you’re working. So, I’ll ask once more: Can the future of flex hours everywhere get here already?

Photo of owl courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020