Now night owls don’t have to suffer the daily struggle to get up for work and deal with the accompanying daytime sleepiness and afternoon crash, not to mention the health risks that go with going against your chronotype. New research from the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK found that they can follow some simple steps to re-train their body clocks in as little as three weeks.
The study, published in Sleep Medicine, showed astonishing results – participants were able to bring up their sleep/wake times by two hours, with no negative effect on their length of sleep.
And there were bonuses: study participants reported a decrease in feelings of depression and stress, as well as daytime sleepiness.
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Why you should consider changing your night owl ways
Although being a night owl may be part of your nature – and maybe a part of your identity – researchers agree that it puts you out of sync with the rest of the world, which is an overall bummer and makes work difficult.
“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 wellbeing,” study co-author Dr. Andrew Bagshaw from the University of Birmingham said in a release.
With the study, “We wanted to see if there were simple things people could do at home to solve this issue,” said Bagshaw. “This was successful, on average allowing people to get to sleep and wake up around two hours earlier than they were before. Most interestingly, this was also associated with improvements in mental wellbeing and perceived sleepiness.”
Here’s what the 22 healthy night-owl study participants did, which you can try for yourself.
- For three weeks, wake up two to three hours before you usually do. This also lets you maximize your time soaking up natural light.
- Go to bed two to three hours before your usual bedtime, limiting light exposure in the evening.
- Keep a regimented eating schedule, having breakfast as soon as you wake up, with lunch at the same time daily, and dinner at 7 pm.
- Keep sleep/wake times the same on both work days and free days – no sleeping in on the weekend.
When the experiment was over, researchers noted an increase in participants’ cognitive and physical performance in the morning, as well as peak performance in the afternoon – when night owls would usually be tired. Eating breakfast seemed to lead to mental well-being, as well.
Not only does initiating this shift make life easier for the former late-nighters, but it’s better for their overall health, said researchers.
“Establishing simple routines could help ‘night owls’ adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health. Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes,” said Professor Debra Skene from the University of Surrey.
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