Is being a night owl bad for your health?

-Jun 12, Jenny Paul, Health -

Is it possible to change your circadian rhythm and sleep patterns to encourage your body into an earlier - and healthier - sleep cycle? we take a look

If you’re a night owl then you’ll know that despite often feeling tired all day, the hours of darkness are almost always where you suddenly feel wide awake. It can seem impossible to get to sleep at 11pm when you’re bursting with energy and a stream of wonderful ideas. But, with new research suggesting that being a night owl is bad for your health, we decided to take a look at whether it’s possible to change your sleep patterns and encourage your body into an earlier – and healthier – sleep cycle?

A recent study found that night owls could be more likely to suffer ill health than people who go to bed early and are subject to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Why being a night owl is bad for your health

This research was published in Advances in Nutrition and concluded that those who frequently go to bed later often tend to have unhealthier diets and eat more sugar, fast food, alcohol and caffeine than their early bird counterparts – who reportedly ate larger volumes of fruit and vegetables, as well as often getting the recommended 8 hours of quality sleep a night.

What we found interesting was that there was a strong link to the individuals’ internal body clocks, known as the circadian rhythm, being responsible for them having a tendency to going to bed earlier or later.

We asked Lumity’s creator, Dr Sara Palmer Hussey, PhD for her thoughts and she insists that you can change your circadian rhythm and going to bed late every night is simply down to habit.

How to change your circadian rhythm

“The fundamental point is that you are not born a night owl or an early bird, it is a result of habit. Your circadian rhythm can be shifted, just as you shift it when you travel across time zones,” Sara explains.

“When you respect your circadian rhythm, when you allow it to align with nature, ie you get up in the morning and you go to bed at night, it can best do its job to support optimal health.

“Research into the health of shift workers proves how damaging it is to disrupt this natural alignment.

“Being a night owl is a slight disruption of this natural alignment and can have a negative effect on wellbeing especially if it means someone is sleeping a lot less because they are still getting up early in the morning.”

Sara says that it is our circadian rhythm that triggers multiple processes within the body that signal when it’s time to sleep, but if these are misaligned they won’t work properly.

Your circadian rhythm works like a clock

“Your circadian rhythm works like a clock not only giving your body a cue to go to sleep or wake up, but also for hundreds of other processes in the body that if misaligned will not work as efficiently as possible,” Sara warns.

“In the evening, hundreds of processes in the body start to cue the onset of sleep and with sleep the body also triggers repair and detoxification processes. Insulin resistance too increases as the evening progresses.

RELATED: Insulin Resistance: the health condition that might be at the root of your chronic fatigue and weight gain

The health issues related to a disrupted circadian rhythm

“If this evening cascade of processes is disrupted by any number of our habits, eg eating late in the evening, bright lights, watching stimulating tv, working on computers, vigorous exercise, etc, the many processes entrained by the circadian rhythm fall out of sync and you get issues such as insomnia, poor quality of sleep, gut issues, brain fog and accelerated ageing.”

Therefore, respecting the circadian rhythm and working with it rather than against it by going to bed early – as well as not eating foods which cause inflammation, watching TV or scrolling on social media – right before you go to bed are key.

Health is a question of balance and rhythm

Sara concludes: “Health is a question of balance and rhythm, just like nature. If you respect the body’s need for balance (compensating for extremes, ie rest to balance stress, and seeking moderation) and its cycles (wake/sleep, but also monthly and seasonal cycles), then the body can more efficiently perpetuate health.”

If you’re used to staying up late but would like to reset your body clock, try eating a healthy dinner in the early evening and then switching the TV and digital devices off after 9pm. Have a long relaxing bath, followed by reading a book in bed and then taking your 3 Lumity night capsules and turning the lights off at 11pm. Avoid drinking too much water before bed or thinking about things that stress you out – we like Headspace’s sleep meditation for helping to calm the mind before bed.

Find this interesting? Stress is often lurking behind an inability to fall asleep. Here’s how to tame stress by a top doctor. And, is inflammation behind your insomnia?

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