Night owls’ productivity might improve with a few simple lifestyle adjustments, study suggests

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Fixing the sleeping routine of “night owls” or those who naturally keep late hours cannot be done overnight.

However, a new study found out that it would only take few simple lifestyle adjustments for night owls in order to fix their sleeping routine, which could help them boost their productivity, as well as lower their health risks.

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“Our research findings highlight the ability of a simple nonpharmacological intervention to phase advance ‘night owls,’ reduce negative elements of mental health and sleepiness, as well as manipulate peak performance times in the real world,” lead researcher Elise Facer-Childs said.

According to Andrew Bagshaw, co-author of the study, “having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes — from daytime sleepiness to poorer mental well-being.”

Researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the United Kingdom and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, recruited 22 healthy volunteers with night owl habits, a report said.

The volunteers had an average bedtime of 2:30 a.m. and an average wake-up time of 10:15 a.m.,” it said.

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They were asked to make certain lifestyle changes over three weeks such as:

  • Waking up two to three hours earlier than they usually would and trying to get maximum exposure to outdoor light in the morning.
  • Going to bed two to three hours earlier than they usually would and minimizing exposure to light sources in the evening, before bed.
  • Keeping to the same wake-up times and bedtimes every day, including at weekends.
  • Eating breakfast first thing after waking up, lunch at a consistent time each day, and dinner no later than 7 p.m.
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The researchers revealed that after the three-week intervention, the volunteers demonstrated improvements in both cognitive performance, with an increase in reaction time, and physical shape, with improved grip strength, in the morning.

“They also reported reaching ‘peak’ performance capacity in the afternoons rather than in the evenings as they were before the study,” the report said.

They also reported a decrease in feelings of depressi0n and stress, as well as in daytime sleepiness.

Bagshaw noted that the intervention was also associated with improvements in mental well-being and perceived sleepiness, “meaning that it was a very positive outcome for the participants.”

At a time when many of us have turned into night owls, this is truly worth pondering over. A bit of lifestyle changes might prove to be truly beneficial for our kind.