Night Owl
Research says night owls may have increased health risks due to their lifestyle. However, another study suggests that making four easy lifestyle changes could help minimize that health risk. Ekaterina Aristova / Flickr

Do you find yourself staying up late through the night and sleeping through the morning? If so, would you consider yourself to be a night owl? If you said yes to both, you may benefit from the findings of this recent study.

People who go to bed late and wake up late, more often than not, experience health problems because their body clock is all jumbled up. The body cannot adjust to these changes and therefore, health problems arise as the body tries to do what it needs to do, considering that your body clock is not ideally balanced. However, fret not, as a new study suggests that these four easy routine adjustments could go a long way for night owls.

Researchers found that night owls—people who naturally stay up late—experience an effect similar to jet lag on a daily basis, thanks in part to their sleep schedule. There are things expected of us and usually, those things include a 9-5 job which is the standard. Night owls, who often stay up late, may struggle to meet the 9-5 requirement without sacrificing a lot of sleep.

Other studies suggest that night owls also have a higher risk of diabetes compared to morning people and that they are more likely to develop heart disease.

To combat the negative effects that come with being a night owl, a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, conducted a study arguing that by making a few simple lifestyle adjustments, night owls could minimize their health risks.

For their study, the researchers recruited 22 healthy participants with night owl habits. The participants had an average bedtime of 2:30 am and an average wake-up time of 10:15 am.

“Having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes—from day time sleepiness to poorer mental well-being" explained Andrew Bagshaw, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study

For that reason, the researchers wanted to see if implementing some easy lifestyle changes would allow night owls to adjust their sleep patterns. They also wanted to see if these changes could reduce the ill effects that being a night owl can have on your health.

These changes include:

  1. Waking up 2-3 hours earlier than you usually would and trying to get maximum exposure to outdoor light in the morning
  2. Going to bed 2-3 hours earlier than you usually would and minimizing your exposure to light sources in the evening, before you go to bed
  3. Sticking with the same wake-up times and bedtimes every day, including the weekends
  4. Eating breakfast first thing in the morning, lunch at a consistent time each day, and dinner no later than 7 in the evening

After the 3-week study, the participants demonstrated improvements in both physical shape, with improved grip strength, and cognitive performance, with an increase in reaction time, in the morning. They were also reported to reach ‘peak’ performance capacity in the afternoons rather than in the evenings as they were before the changes. Moreover, participants reported a decrease in feelings of stress, depression, and daytime sleepiness.