Can night owls lead a healthy life?
Lately my sleep schedule has been pretty messed up.
Being a night owl, it was always normal for me to stay awake until 3 AM and wake up early to catch the 7 AM bus to attend my 8 AM class. To make up for this sleep deficiency, I would take a 1.5-hour nap in the evening after getting back home, which kept me refreshed and active at night to continue the repetition of the cycle. On the weekends, I would sleep longer to compensate for the overall lack of sleep.
But ever since the university closed due to the pandemic, I stopped sleeping at night entirely and started going to bed early in the morning, thinking that getting plenty of sleep during the day would allow me to continue leading a healthy life. But there was this constant feeling of discomfort which I couldn't shake off, perhaps because sleeping during the day was anything but normal. I was also worried about the long term detrimental effects it might have on my body and so, I decided to investigate.
To my shock, I found from a study that mistimed sleep, such as sleeping during the day may disrupt and alter the rhythms of our gene activities (Archer et al., 2014). Another study suggested that rapid changes in more than 100 proteins in the blood can occur if one sleeps during the day even for just one 24-hour period, and over time, these biochemical changes in blood protein levels may put us at a higher risk of being affected with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer (Depner, Melanson, McHill & Wright, 2018). Therefore, pulling all-nighters and sleeping during the day is not a good choice, even more so if it's continued for a prolonged period of time.
However, sleep deprivation, a common phenomenon among night owls, is actually more detrimental than sleeping during the day. Researchers have uncovered evidence indicating that individuals who go to sleep very late and in turn wake up very late tend to have lower brain connectivity and therefore, they are more prone to attention deficit, slower reaction time and increased sleepiness during working hours (Facer-Childs et al., 2019). The traditional 9 to 5 working hours can be tough for the night owl, because the sleep deficit may result in diminished performance during the morning.
But being a night owl isn't all bad, as they tend to be more creative and have higher cognitive abilities because of higher cortisol secretion within their bodies. Night owls have also been found to be risk takers and researchers have found no significant difference in overall performance between night owls and early birds.
New research indicates that resetting the late timing of such individuals has a positive impact on mental health and performance and it is possible to reset our internal biological clock within a week. So, adjusting the sleep routine and maintaining a healthy diet can help night owls to lead a healthy life.
H. Rainak Khan Real is working hard to create a nationwide transmutation circle that can speed up university graduation. Send him help at [email protected]