Sorry Night Owl, Early Bird are Healthier

Are you the type of person who is more active at night, stays up more often, and sleeps during the day? Here are seven steps you can do if you’re a night owl.

Some people prefer to be active in the morning. Meanwhile, some others feel more ‘alive’ at night. No need to be surprised, because humans are genetically programmed to wake up early or early birds. Conversely, there tend to be awake at night or called a night owl. So, is there any effect on their health?

Even though you feel healthy now, it turns out that this habit of staying up late has a negative impact on your health latter.

Get to know early birds and night owls

In general, there are two types of groups regarding sleep time. The first group is the night owl, which is when you have full energy until the night and have a tendency to sleep late. While others are early birds, that is, you who have a tendency to wake up early and go to bed early at night. If you are a night owl, you are not alone. Keck Medicine of USC said about 20 percent of the world’s population are night owls.

Scientists use the term chronotype to describe an individual’s tendency toward daily activity and rest times. Both night owls and early birds are shaped by biological and genetic forces, lifestyles, moods, and ways of thinking and sleeping.

A study published in the journal Nature Communications, took a sample of 700,000 individuals. The result, obtained 351 genetic factors that influence a person to become an early bird or night owl.

According to research, genetic factors also affect when a person sleeps and wakes up. But it should be noted, although it affects sleep time, genes do not affect the quality or duration of sleep.

The identification of 351 genetic factors includes genes that involve circadian rhythms, namely the human sleep and wake cycle. This gene is associated with the brain, as well as the retinal tissue of the eye. Allegedly, the presence of this gene in the eye helps early birds detect light to wake up in the morning.

Night Owls Healthy Risks

Based on Harvard Edu, various studies investigating sleep habits and health risks show a pattern in which certain sleep patterns or body clocks and health conditions go hand in hand. Here are some health risks that haunt you and other night owls:

1. Poor sleep quality
Night owls tend to have low sleep duration and quality. Especially for night owls who stay up late and still have to get up in the morning to work even harder.

They tend to make up for some of the loss of sleep on the weekends when they have time. But research shows that the practice of this sleep debt can actually change the sleep schedule in the future.

2. High blood pressure
Based on Health, a 2013 study showed that 30 percent of night owls had higher blood pressure than those of early birds.

Andrew Varga, MD, a sleep medicine expert at the Icahn School of Medicine, says that lifestyle patterns such as unhealthy eating or lack of exercise can contribute to a high likelihood of developing hypertension.

3. Diabetes risk
Night owls also have a risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you already have it, this habit of staying up late can also complicate its treatment.

A 2013 study in Diabetes Care found that, for people with type 2 diabetes, having longer sleep was associated with poorer glycemic control, even after researchers controlled for total sleep duration.

4. Weight gain
When you stay up late, you must have felt hungry and ended up eating a snack or even a heavy meal in the middle of the night.

Eating late at night can cause problems with how your body handles and metabolizes food. Some experts believe that eating after dark interferes with the body’s natural overnight fast, which can impair its ability to burn fat.

In addition, another study found that night owls also consumed more calories per day than early birds. This may be because willpower is lower when you are tired and we tend to crave unhealthy food late at night.

5. Depression
A study published in Depression and Anxiety found that night owls were more likely to experience depression and anxiety disorders, compared to early birds. People who stayed up late were more likely to report significant mood variations throughout the day, with worse moods occurring in the morning.

Researchers said that night owls may have more difficulty regulating their emotions. Night owls are more likely to suppress their feelings and less likely to practice cognitive reassessment.

In a study at the University of Aachen, Germany, researchers used brain scans to identify night owls and early birds in groups of men and women. Scans found that night owls had less white matter, a type of fatty tissue in the brain. This network increases the risk of depression and impairs cognitive function.

6. Asthma and allergies
Teenagers who are night owls are more likely to have asthma and allergies than others who are early birds. Based on Prevalence and Risk Factors of Asthma and Allergy-Related Diseases among Adolescents Study, compared with teenagers who were early birds, night owls were almost twice as likely to report having wheeze in the past 12 months.

What can a night owl do?

According to the federal government, more than one-third of adults routinely fail to get a healthy amount of sleep, defined as a minimum of seven hours a night.

Transforming yourself from a night owl to an early bird requires changing your body’s circadian rhythm, it may be hard but it’s not impossible.

“Resetting your circadian rhythm really means resetting the timing of when you sleep and when you wake up,” says Dr. Roth, a behavioral sleep medicine psychologist. “It has to do more with the schedule of your sleep, rather than how well you fall asleep.”

The following tips from Dr. Roth can help reset your circadian rhythm.

1. Sleep early, get up early
One of the reasons why night owls stay up late is because they are not tired. You need to make sure that you feel sleepy earlier in the night. To do that, you have to wake up earlier than usual.

It’s going to be tough for a few days as you make these adjustments, but stay consistent: After a few days of setting your alarm at 6am, there’s a good chance you’ll be tired by 10pm.

Exercise also helps with melatonin production, which can help you sleep. IT makes you tired and lead you to sleep earlier.

2. No need to rush
If getting up at 6am is too much to do, start by moving your alarm forward in 15-minute chunks every morning for a week until you get to your new wake-up time.

If you currently go to sleep at 1 a.m. and wake up at 9 a.m., focus on going to bed at 12:30 p.m. and waking up at 8:30 a.m. for a week, and then shift those times back another half-hour the following week.

3. Set your evening schedule
If your schedule is flexible, change the time to do your usual activities whether it’s going to the gym, having dinner, watching TV, or socializing with friends finished an hour early.

If it’s impossible to finish early, consider which activities can be shortened or done on alternate days to help you advance your bedtime by the same number of minutes to your new wake-up time.

4. Limit screen time
If you have a habit of surfing on internet and using social media before bed, stop it. Blue light from phones and tablets inhibits melatonin production and disrupts your circadian rhythm.

Avoid screens 30 minutes before bed.

5. Avoid naps
While you may love taking an afternoon nap, that hourlong (or more) snooze can harm your circadian rhythm by making it harder to fall asleep at night.

If you do need to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes or less and aim to nap before 3 p.m.

6. Avoid caffeine in the evening
Note the time of the last cup of coffee. Caffeine, a stimulant, keeps you awake when you want to relax late at night.

7. Be consistent!
The quickest way to put your sleep on a new schedule is to stick to it on the weekends.

So try to consistently go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

Let me know if you have your own powerful tips to be an early bird. Good luck trying!


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Isabella Soerjanto MD
Isabella Soerjanto MD
Isabella is a medical doctor, living in Bali, Indonesia. She is an empathetic and compassionate general practitioner with a lively and energetic character. She is eager to put all of her knowledge and skills to use and be of service to patients and the hospital. She is passionate about writing, medical humanities & education, and adventures.
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