Sleep Doctors Just Laid Out a How-To Guide for Becoming a Morning Person

Bonus: You're just a few good habits away from better health!

Chances are you've heard by now that being an early riser is healthier than being a night owl. People who stay up late and wake up late have been found to experience higher rates of obesity, insomnia, ADHD, addictive behaviors, antisocial tendencies, and mental disorders, as well as being at greater risk for all-cause death. But all hope is not lost: A new study published in the journal Sleep Medicine has found that making four small changes could help night owls retrain their internal clocks and become morning people—no pharmacological intervention needed!

Study co-author Dr. Andrew Bagshaw, the co-director for the Centre for Human Brain Health at the University of a Birmingham, explained in a press release that "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."

So, Bagshaw and his team asked 22 healthy individuals who consider themselves night owls to do four things over the course of three weeks. "We wanted to see if there were simple things people could do at home to solve this issue," he explained. The participants' tasks were as follows:

  1. Wake up two or three hours before their normal time and get as much natural sunlight as possible.
  2. Go to bed two or three hours before their normal time and limit light exposure.
  3. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule on both work days and days off.
  4. Eat breakfast upon waking up, have lunch at the same time every day, and refrain from eating after 7 p.m.

"This was successful, on average allowing people to get to sleep and wake up around two hours earlier than they were before," Bagshaw noted. "Most interestingly, this was also associated with improvements in mental well-being and perceived sleepiness, meaning that it was a very positive outcome for the participants. We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental well-being, and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes."

The study is limited due to its small sample size, but it does support previous research regarding good sleeping habits. And it indicates that night owls are not sealed to their fate and can retrain their internal clocks by sticking to a very disciplined schedule.

"By acknowledging these differences and providing tools to improve outcomes we can go a long way in a society that is under constant pressure to achieve optimal productivity and performance," lead researcher Dr. Elise Facer-Childs of Monash University's Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health said in the press release.

And if you don't feel like you're a night owl or an early riser, then we have the answer! Check out New Research Shows There Aren't Just Morning or Night People Out There.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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