Night owls or evening people are described as those who wake up during late hours of the morning and go to bed late at night. They often struggle to align their body clock with the natural nine to five work schedule.

As a result, the evening people end up struggling with several physical and mental illnesses, such as depression, stress, diabetics and serious cardiovascular diseases. But, new research says that the solution might be a simple one.

A study published in a journal called Science Direct suggested that night owls can combat health issues by making simple routine changes.

So, what are the changes the evening people need to make to match their natural body clock with the modern society’s rhythm?

A group of academics from the University of Birmingham in association with the researchers in Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found the answer through their study, titled “Resetting the late timing of ‘night owls’ has a positive impact on mental health and performance”.

Here are some of the things suggested by the research:

  • Get the maximum exposure to outdoor lighting by getting up two or three hours earlier than the usual timings
  • Minimize the exposure to artificial lights, especially in the evening hours
  • Try going to bed two or three hours earlier than the usual timings
  • Maintain the same sleeping pattern even during the weekends
  • Follow strict timings for every meal of the day
  • Have breakfast within few minutes of waking up and finish dinner by seven in the evening

How did the researchers found out that implementation of above mentioned changes can help a night owl stay healthy?

The researchers observed 22 healthy volunteers who stayed up late at night. They had a habit of waking up after 10 am in the morning and going to bed after 2.30 am. During the study period of three weeks, the academics asked the participants to make simple routine changes.

“Having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes — from daytime sleepiness to poorer mental well-being. We wanted to see if there were simple things people could do at home to solve this issue,” Andrew Bagshaw, co-author of the study, said.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that their study approach was successful. It allowed the participants to “get to sleep and wake up around 2 hours earlier than they were before”.

By adopting new sleeping patterns, the participants were also able to demonstrate improvements in their physical and cognitive performance. They had improved grip strength in the morning and there was a visible increase in their reaction to time. They were also able to showcase their peak performance capacity in the afternoons rather than in the evenings.

Participants even reported a decline in feelings of daytime sleepiness, stress and depression. “[The intervention] was also associated with improvements in mental well-being and perceived sleepiness, meaning that it was a very positive outcome for the participants,” Bagshaw noted.

“We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental well-being, and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes,” the researcher added.