A lot of research has gone into discovering how to get the best nights sleep. New discoveries have found that not being able to sleep at night may not be your fault. As it turns out, night owls have an internal clock that works. Forcing them to wake up early may have serious health effects.
There’s loads of information on how to improve your sleep. Go to bed at regular times. Stay away from monitors of any type. And do not hit snooze. However, it all comes down to the exact assumption: That YOU’RE doing something wrong when it might not be your fault at all.
Inside practically every organism on Earth, there is a clock which keeps order called the circadian rhythm. For humans, it is found in the section of our brains called the hypothalamus. And while it is most famous for controlling sleep cycles, it is also responsible for assisting primary organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs, to work in harmony. But not everybody’s circadian rhythm is the same. Night owls, for example, generally feel tired later than early birds often because they produce high levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin, later during the night.
For most of human history, night owls could safeguard their tribes from nocturnal predators and enemy tribes, but culture has made it an issue in recent decades. An estimated 80% of Australians follow daily schedules that fall between 6 am and 6 pm. However, almost a third of the population considers themselves night owls. Which means they would be more productive with a night owl’s schedule. This phenomenon is known as social jetlag. It is like the jetlag you feel after a long plane trip but worse since it does not disappear after a couple of days.
This effect takes a toll on night owls around the world because, even if you get the recommended amount of sleep, knocking your circadian rhythm out of whack has consequences. For example, one study found that for every hour your circadian rhythm is out of sync, your risk of obesity increases by 33%. It is also increasing your risk of many health complications related to obesity, such as cardiac arrest ( heart attack). In another study, individuals whose circadian rhythms were higher than two hours off reported especially more severe symptoms of depression.
And because your circadian rhythm will change as you age, societal jet-lag is particularly apparent in teens. In actuality, the CDC warns that many public schools across Australia begin too early, before 8:30. This costs the nation $AU9 billion annually due to lost academic performance and road accidents from tired teenagers behind the wheel. Fortunately, the circadian rhythm is not set in stone. As it turns out, our circadian rhythm is primarily triggered by light signals and routine habits. Thus, when you wake up, go outside and soak up some morning sun, ensure that your house is well lit. It may just brighten your morning a bit more.