What Happens When A Night Owl Has To Wake Up Early
There is a lot of information available on how to achieve the best night’s sleep. However, it’s possible that if you identify as a Night Owl you’re not to blame for your inability to sleep. The circadian rhythm is not the same for everyone, and there’s a name to this phenomenon! It is called Social Jetlag, which is similar to the jet lag we get after a long flight. It turns out that Night Owls have a different circadian rhythm than Early Birds. Forcing Night Owls to get up early enhances their Social Jetlag, which can last for days and could be harmful to their overall health.
There is a plethora of information available on how to improve your sleep. One of the most common quotes is “Oh, just go to bed around the same time when it becomes dark outside.” Other information tells us to stay away from digital screens. Or, don’t hit the snooze button, simply jump out of bed while singing a chirpy song. I dare you to do that if your partner is a Night Owl, see how far you get out of the bedroom before a pillow hits you in the head! All kidding aside, Night Owls are not doing something wrong, it’s not their fault at all.
The circadian rhythm keeps order inside almost every living thing on the planet. It’s found in the hypothalamus, which is a component of the human brain. While it’s best known for regulating our sleep cycles, it’s also in charge of ensuring that major organs like the brain, heart, and lungs work in unison. However, not everyone has the same circadian rhythm. Night Owls, for example, are more weary later in the day than Early Birds. They do so because they manufacture a lot of the sleep hormone, melatonin, later in the evening.
Throughout history people who were known to be Night Owls would be called upon to guard their tribes from nocturnal predators or their towns from cunning conquerors. How times have changed in recent decades. Statistically speaking there is a high percentage of people who follow daily schedules that aligns with people who are prone to be Early Birds. Despite this, nearly a third of the population identifies as Night Owls. As a result, they’d be better off with a schedule that would be more conducive to their Night Owl traits.
The world’s Night Owls are suffering from Social Jetlag. because disrupting their circadian cycle, even if they get the correct amount of sleep, has consequences. For example, one study discovered that every hour a person’s circadian cycle is out of sync, there is a 33% more risk of developing obesity. Night Owls could be susceptible for a myriad of health problems that is associated with being overweight. Unfortunately, it’s not just a physical condition. People with circadian rhythms that were more than 2 hours off, reportedly suffered more severe symptoms of depression.
As we age our circadian rhythm begins to vary. Some studies have indicated teenagers are particularly prone to Social Jetlag. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that most public schools in the United States start too early. The estimated costs have been suggested to be over 9 billion dollars each year in missed academic performance and an increase in car accidents caused by sleepy teenagers behind the wheel.
Fortunately, the circadian rhythm isn’t set in stone. The good news it is possible to retrain our inner clock, which is good news for Night Owls. Getting up early allows those who are generally Night Owls to be exposed to morning light, which signals the circadian clock that it is time to wake up. As the day draws to a close, Night Owls should decrease room lighting and stay away from phones, laptops, and televisions as much as possible. Less light helps the body understand that it is night and time to sleep by reducing the amount of light it receives. Also, those late evenings and extended lie-ins on weekends are a thing of the past.
From a personal perspective, I have worked shift work for a majority of my career in policing and I have partnered with people who identify as being Night Owls. I have seen first hand the challenges my partners have experienced from a physical and emotional perspective. This is one reason for this informative blog and other blogs I will be creating specifically for people who work shift work.
Take care a God Bless.