If the sound of your alarm clock fills you with dread, or if you only start to feel creative once the sun’s gone down, then you’re probably a Night Owl.
Unfortunately, your natural tendency to stay up late could be hurting your health.
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests being a Night Owl is associated with a range of health problems. To name just a few of the risks, evening people are more likely to develop mental health disorders and more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.
Most sleep scientists see these health issues as a result of Night Owls being forced to live and work to schedules that are out of sync with their circadian rhythm, or natural internal clock.
But it’s not clear exactly how this is happening or, most importantly, what Night Owls can do to mitigate the risks.
Here at LYS, our wearable light sensor and data interpretation provides a unique perspective on sleep-wake cycles. We’re gaining some fascinating insights into why Night Owls struggle with their sleep and energy levels.
By sharing our research, we want to help people understand why they suffer from sleepless nights and to promote the idea that light has a big impact on your wellbeing.
Here are some of our preliminary findings based on real life data gathered by our wearable light sensor.
Finding 1: Night Owls are exposed to more blue light in the evening
It’s a well-known problem that being exposed to blue light before bed can disrupt your sleep.
However, it’s not often commented upon that this is a particular issue for Night Owls. It makes perfect sense that someone who still feels creative and alert later in the day will be exposed to light from devices and brightly lit rooms long into the evening.
If you’re a Night Owl, this should serve as an important reminder that you need to be particularly mindful of your lighting environment when you stay up late.
Finding 2: Night Owls wake up and go to bed at more irregular times
Our data shows that Night Owls have a far greater range of wake up times compared with other chronotypes. Or in other words, Night Owls’ sleep routines are more erratic.
When trying to treat sleep disorders, sleep therapists often start by asking their patients to commit to a regular schedule. Waking up at the same time every day helps our bodies settle into a healthy pattern and improves sleep quality.
It’s interesting to see that Night Owls struggle to stick to a consistent routine. It seems likely that Night Owls are forced to wake up early for work during the week, but when given the chance on the weekend they choose to sleep in — causing a disrupted, irregular cycle.
Finding 3: Night Owls generally feel worse than Morning Larks... but it’s not all bad news
This is in line with a lot of other research, supporting the general consensus that Night Owls are predisposed to sleep problems. It is, of course, a subjective rating. But when it comes to sleep, how you feel is arguably just as important as any other metric.
Interestingly, however, our research shows that Night Owls have some healthy habits compared with other types, such as relatively good exposure to natural light during the day.
At LYS, we want our insights to help people feel better and provide advice that’s tailored to them, not just worry about the negatives. When Night Owls are thinking about how they can improve their wellbeing, it’s important that we help them recognise and build upon their positive habits too.
To summarise our findings, Night Owls:
- are exposed to greater levels of blue light in the evening
- wake up and go to bed at irregular times
- feel they sleep badly when compared with Morning Larks.
These are preliminary results taken from an overview of our Light Diet® programme.
However, even at this early stage, these insights serve as an important reminder that in order to improve your sleep you need to understand your body clock. A great first step is to learn more about your personal sleep-wake cycle.
If, as a society, we all became more conscious of how our internal clock affects our productivity and health, we could go a long way towards helping Night Owls live healthier and happier lives.
See how LYS can help you improve your sleep, productivity and energy levels.
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