‘Night owl’ schedule not good for health

Most of us have probably heard the old saying that it’s better to be ‘early to bed and early to rise.’

According to a recent study, there may be some truth to that.

Research is showing that perhaps being a ‘night owl’ has a negative impact on our longevity.

The study looked at data from 433,268 adults between the ages of 38-73 over six and a half years.

Researchers found those who were inclined to go to bed later and get up later had higher incidences of psychological disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory conditions, and a ten percent increased risk of death.

Reena Mehra, M.D., Director of Sleep Disorders Research at Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said it shows that when our days and nights are misaligned, it can be a recipe for health risks.

“When there’s this misalignment, there’s an issue and that can have a negative effect on our biology, and increase biomarkers of systemic inflammation that lead to cardiovascular risk and even cancer,” she said.

Dr. Mehra said, often times, there is a social belief that if waking up early is difficult for a person despite receiving sufficient sleep, that they can just push through it and they will be fine – but this study is telling us that might not be the case.

She said people who have trouble falling asleep at night and waking earlier in the morning can often be mischaracterized as ‘lazy’ when their troubles are actually rooted in their genetics, not in their motivation.

For those who have trouble going to bed early and getting up early, Dr. Mehra recommends shutting down the lights at night, and using light to help wake up in the morning.

“We use the term, ‘light at night,’ she said. “With the industrialization of society, our ever-changing schedules, along with the electronic devices that many of us are connected to – particularly in the evening – we want to minimize these exposures, especially if we have the tendency to be night owls.”

Dr. Mehra also said if we don’t stay close to our Monday through Friday schedule on the weekends, this wreaks more havoc on our bodies and will give us a jet-lag feeling come Monday.

For those who are really struggling, she recommends seeking the help of a sleep medicine professional.

Complete results of the study can be found in Chronobiology International

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