Night Owls Risk Much More Than Just Missing Breakfast

Photo credit: bigstock

Photo credit: bigstock

In todays’ world, working long hours, partying late with friends, or staying up past 1 AM watching a Twilight Zone marathon, seems to be something to be proud of. Getting a good night’s sleep is snickered at as something for ‘grandma’. Sometimes it seems as if the world is divided into early birds and night owls.

Although early birds might be laughed at by night owls as being “overly happy at an ungodly hour” but one thing cannot be denied; early birds have better metal and physical health than night owls, according to a study conducted at University of Western Sydney.

This study involved 263 college students who filled out a questionnaire about their habits and personality traits. This study showed that night owls had personality traits that were linked with being more unstable, aggressive, in need of attention, seeking special treatment, and being insensitive, something researchers called the “Dark Triad”. These people tend to go to extremes, and have negative mental and physical health consequences.

Night owls are also much more prone to illnesses as they often have immune system dysfunctions. This leaves them with a much lower resistance to viruses. Night owls get sick more often than early birds. Find out why you should turn off Netflix and go to sleep.

This study also showed that night owls consume more alcohol, and don’t sleep well when they do go to bed. Researchers suggest that this might be why many night owls suffer from depression. Unfortunately, many scientists believe that this preference for staying up until near dawn is a genetic disposition that actually has to do with the way the brain is structured.

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Photo credit: bigstock

Photo credit: bigstock

However, there are several factors that are important here to consider. Some people are forced to be night owls due to their job, or because of sleep disorders, even changing circadian rhythms.

The problems that are caused by being a night owl isn’t necessarily with the time that you go to sleep, but the amount of sleep that you get. If you are one of those people who go to bed very late, sleep well for seven or eight hours, and feel refreshed when you get up, then you are probably fine. For most night owls, sleep does not come easily and they generally complain about being tired. People who do not get enough sleep are often plagued with numerous health problems including weight gain, an increased risk of developing diabetes, elevated levels of stress hormones, increased inflammation, and even higher blood pressure, all of which are markers for chronic diseases later on in life.

One study that is scheduled was published January of 2014 and conducted in Germany, showed that night owls often suffer from serious sleep issues that lead to higher consumptions of alcohol, nicotine, junk foods, and can bring on depression. Researchers at RWTH Aachen University performed scans on 16 self-proclaimed early birds, 23 night owls and 20 persons that were somewhere in the middle. These scans showed that night owls had a reduction of the integrity of the brains area that is associated with depression. Read more how to fall asleep fast.

Night owls, if you want to change your inclination, some research shows that you can reset your internal clock within as little as 7 days. Researchers at The University of Colorado took night owls for a one week camping trip. They were not allowed to take flashlights or any personal electronic devices, nothing that would emit an unnatural light. Campers were only exposed to sunlight and some campfires. All 8 night owls found that their circadian clocks had been reset and that they woke up soon after sunrise and went to bed soon after sundown.



Jessica Rosenberg et al, “Early to bed, early to rise: Diffusion tensor imaging identifies chronotype-specificity” 


Kenneth P. Wright et al, “Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle,” Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 16, 1554-1558, 01 August 2013