The Jakarta Post
A recent study reveals that tweaking sleeping habits may cause a shift in the body clock and result in improved well-being for night owls. (Shutterstock/Kanashkin Evgeniy)
Scientists in the United Kingdom and Australia have revealed that tweaking sleeping habits may cause a shift in body clocks and result in improved well-being, as reported by the BBC.
The scientists studied the routines of night owls, or people who are habitually active during the night. Suggestions for improved well-being included consistent bed times, caffeine avoidance and increased exposure to morning sunlight.
Although obvious, their approach could make a difference, according to the researchers.
The body clock, also known as the rhythm that follows the rising and setting of the sun, operates differently for each person, with some running later than others (night owls).
Morning-led “larks” are people who wake up early but face difficulties staying up in the evening, whereas night owls prefer to stay active in the evening and later.
Most night owls struggle with a nine-to-five lifestyle, in which they need to be awake hours before their bodies are ready. One study even found that being a night owl may be linked to poor health.
In the studies, scientists gave a set of instructions to 21 “extreme night owls” – people who go to bed on average at 2:30 a.m. and wake up after 10 a.m.
The instructions included waking up two to three hours earlier than usual as well as getting sunlight, eating breakfast and exercising in the morning, banishing coffee after 3 p.m., going to sleep two to three hours earlier than usual and trying to limit the amount of light in the evening – and maintaining that sleep and wake course every day.
The analysis by researchers from the University of Birmingham, the University of Surrey and Monash University showed that after three weeks, the body clocks had shifted. Participants were able to wake up two hours earlier.
According to Debra Skene from the University of Surrey, night owls can adjust their body clocks as well as improve their well-being (both mentally and physically) by establishing simple routines.
"Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian [body clock] misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes, putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes,” Skene claimed.
Sunlight is one of the main cues for syncing body clocks. Thus, it is recommended to expose one’s body to the sun throughout the day and less in the evening.
Despite these findings, scientists have not figured out if a change of habits would cause potential responses and/or side effects.
"What isn't obvious is, when you have these extreme night owls, can you do anything about that?” Andrew Bagshaw from the University of Birmingham told the BBC.
"These are relatively simple things anyone can do that makes an impact, and that to me is surprising. Being able to take a decent chunk of the population and help them feel better without a particularly onerous intervention is quite important.”
A change in body clocks requires time and effort. It is considered important for one to commit to these simple routines to sync one’s sleeping patterns, improve one’s well-being and properly handle the potential responses that may occur throughout the process. (vit/wng)
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