"Changing your chronotype is like changing your hair" - Mayra Carlos Lazo, MD
Updated: Jun 28
Do you think you can change from being a night owl to a morning lark? Do you think a morning lark can change into a night owl?
Well, here's what Somnolence+'s Mayra Carlos Lazo, MD, has to say about that:
"You can't change your chronotype. It's like your hair colour. You can colour your hair, but your natural colour will be what grows back."
If someone's a bottle blonde, bottle brunette, bottle redhead, etc., that person doesn't expect to be a natural blonde, natural brunette, natural redhead, etc. just because of a trip to the salon. Right?
If someone's hair is straight, wavy, or curly, obviously we wouldn't expect that styling it differently would permanently change that person's hair. Even chemically altering hair texture is but temporary.
We also know that maintenance is key if you want to maintain a particular look, colour, or style, and there's often accompanying costs with maintaining it. Think dry, brittle hair, etc. In fact, you actually have to spend more time taking care of your hair in order to make sure that its condition is somewhat healthy.
In the same way, you can't just change your chronotype by changing your bedtime and doing so will require maintenance.
While people still treat one’s sleep-wake pattern as a preference, it is actually determined by one’s circadian rhythm. Sure, you could temporarily shift your bedtime earlier or later; however, you will always be genetically a night owl.
Of course, aligning your lifestyle to your chronotype would be best. However, that is usually challenging for a person to do, especially in the short term.
What can be done when this is the case?
Essentially, you'll need to maintain a different sleep schedule from one that matches your chronotype. You will need to nudge your sleep time continually, back to that which is aligned with your obligations. You will need to maintain excellent sleep hygiene and adhere to a strict sleep plan.
You'll also need to be more vigilant about taking care of yourself and your health because of issues relating to a misalignment between your chronotype and the time when you need to be awake.
You really are fighting against your natural tendencies.
Hope for the future?
However, we do believe that with greater awareness, especially these days, when we can work from home and greater flexibility and creativity with work schedules is possible, people won't have to make as drastic a change to their sleep and wake patterns in the future.
In addition, with appropriate coaching, people can be supported in their quest for better balance or a move towards greater alignment between their chronotype and their lifestyles, whether that be in the short term or in the long term. We know because we've been there.
If you would like to learn more about circadian alignment and sleep, sign up for a Discovery Sleep Fit Session.