Should We Sleep And Wake Early To Boost Our Health?
When a recent study looked at health differences between late and early risers, it appeared to make grim reading for night owls.
Increased risk of early death, psychological disorders and respiratory illness were the stark findings from the paper, which backed up other research suggesting late-nighters are more likely to suffer ill health.
But is being a night owl really bad for you and does it mean some of us should ditch the late nights and lie-ins to become more like morning larks?
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‘Social jet lag’
It’s a scenario familiar to many workers during the week.
After struggling to fall asleep, you’re abruptly dragged out of your precious slumber by the jarring siren of the alarm clock.
By the weekend you’re exhausted and sleep way past your Monday-Friday waking time to catch up on some precious sleep.
This may sound perfectly normal but it’s a sign not only that you’re not getting enough sleep but also that you have “social jet lag”.
This is the term for the difference between when we sleep during the week compared with the weekend, when we’re free to go to bed and get up at the times we like.
The bigger the social jet lag, the greater the health issues, such as increased risk of heart disease and other metabolic problems.
This is what is driving those studies that find night owls – particularly very late risers – are at increased risk of ill health compared with their morning-loving counterparts, according to Till Roenneberg, professor of chronobiology at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.
With many jobs and schools often having early start times, night owls are effectively having to operate in morning lark time.
If you forced early risers to have to work late into the night they’d also face health problems, says Russell Foster, head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute.