Alaska Sleep Education Center

Night Owls to Early Birds

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Jun 19, 2019 11:09:00 AM

Early to bed early to rise or night owl: which camp do you reside in? Each could have potential negative and positive effects on your body depending on your own sleep cycle. Today we will look at the positives and negatives of the night owl along with ways to convert over to an early bird.

Creative minds work best at night. It may be the silence of a quiet room or the idea of dark creating rest, but creative individuals tend to work late and stay up past hours.

Professor Marina Giampietro, says of the creativity found in night owls, “Being in a situation which diverges from conventional habit [typical for nocturnal types], may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions."

A 2009 study by the University of Liege in Belgium monitored 15 “extreme night owls” and 16 “extreme early birds” and had participants stay on their normal sleeping schedules.

While measuring brain activities after first waking up and then again 10 1/2 hours later, the study found higher attention and activity in the night owls. They concluded that night owls are more resilient than early birds when it comes to irregular circadian rhythms and can adjust easier to differing schedules if needed.

night owl

For the extreme night owl, a study of 21 people who on average fell asleep at 2:30 a.m. and woke up after 10 a.m. provided the following instructions:

  • Wake up 2-3 hours earlier than usual and get plenty of outdoor light in the morning
  • Eat breakfast as soon as possible
  • Exercise only in the morning
  • Have lunch at the same time every day and eat nothing after 7 p.m.
  • Banish caffeine after 3 p.m.
  • Avoid naps after 4 p.m.
  • Go to bed 2-3 hours earlier than usual and limit light in the evenings
  • Maintain the same sleep and wake times every day

According to Very Well Health, “the circadian rhythm synchronizes processes within the body—including the propensity for sleep and wakefulness as well as hormonal fluctuations and even body temperature. Night owls have a delay in timing compared to when darkness occurs.”

Because of the possible inconsistent sleep rhythm, delayed sleep phase syndrome could include one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Sleep-onset insomnia
  • Morning sleepiness
  • Sleep deprivation effects (mood problems, poor concentration, increased pain, hallucinations, etc.)

Some negative health effects of night owls can include: higher blood pressure, weight gain, and diabetes. Some side effects of sleeping late into the night while still maintaining early rising hours can affect your driving in the morning as you are more sleepy.

It can create behavior affects such as depression or an increase an alcoholic or tobacco use.

One study shifted night owls to a more routine sleep schedule with consistent wake up and bed times along with eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner consistently.

“The results showed an increase in cognitive (reaction time) and physical (grip strength) performance during the morning, while peak performance times shifted from evening to afternoon.”

early birds

Before starting to make the shift to the early bird life, give yourself plenty of grace. If you are an extreme night owl going to bed at 3 a.m., do not set yourself up for failure changing your alarm to 6 a.m.

If you have flexibility in your schedule, pick a goal then slowly attain it by setting the alarm back a bit every few days to your new time. Same for the evening. Eat before 7 p.m., socialize at lunch with friends versus late night hangouts, record your favorite television shows instead of staying up to watch them all.

Both will equal a slow transition making the change more successful.

To help naturally reset your internal sleep cycle, Reader's Digest gives a top 10 list:

  1. Understand your body's chemistry
  2. Create a sleep routine and stick to it
  3. Don't compare new and old time zones
  4. Lighten up your days
  5. Exercise
  6. Unwind for bed peacefully
  7. Limit stimulants (i.e. coffee)
  8. Don't be a clock-watcher
  9. Put away your devices
  10. Make mornings brighter

For those who cannot resist the nights, you can find solace in "The Night Owl Society." Created by illustrative designer Von Glitschka, the society shares "Our nocturnal tribe soars at midnight. We are the night owls -– whose pixels, presses, polygons and projects flourish best under obsidian skies." Membership and induction receives an invitation to the society's social media pages and a "Night Owl Creative Pack."

With the shift in sleep schedules, you may be more prone to sleep disorders like insomnia. To discover if there are underlying causes to your lack of sleep, contact the Alaska Sleep Education Center for a free 10 minute phone consultation.

If you live in the state of Alaska, our board-certified sleep specialists can even make a Home Sleep Test work for you by calling 1-855-AKSLEEP.

Home Sleep Testing Flyer


Topics: insomnia, circadian rhythm, delayed sleep phase

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