Generally it’s not wise to change your lifestyle based on the results of small studies with a handful of participants. However, when the resultant advice chimes very closely with common sense and doesn’t demand much from you in terms of time or money, there’s little harm in giving it a whirl.
A new study published in the journal Sleep Medicine looked at the habits of 21 “night owls” – people who go to sleep at 2.30am on average and wake after 10am. This kind of sleep pattern is not only hard to fit around standard work hours, but is also linked to mental and physical health problems. A 2018 study looking at 433,000 people found that night owls were at a greater risk of early death than people who got up and went to bed earlier.
The new study found that a series of tweaks to night owls’ sleep routine could successfully move their body clocks two hours earlier. The participants still got the same amount of sleep in total, and reported lower levels of sleepiness, stress and depression. The study also found their reaction times improved.
Obviously you’re now on tenterhooks as to what these magical tips could be, but it’s probably worth calming down a little before we reveal them, because they’re all common-sense changes you’re either already aware of or are a mere Google search away from. That said, it’s absolutely worth trying a few or all of these things if you are having trouble with your sleep routine.
- Wake up two to three hours earlier than usual and go outside to get plenty of natural light in the morning
- Eat breakfast as soon as you can
- Only exercise in the morning
- Have lunch at the same time every day and don’t eat anything after 7pm
- Don’t have any caffeine after 3pm
- Don’t nap after 4pm
- Go to bed two to three hours earlier than usual and limit the amount of light you’re exposed to in the evening
- Maintain consistent sleep and wake times every day
Of those we reckon tips one, seven and eight are the hardest to stick to, because a busy lifestyle can make a consistent sleep routine tricky to stick to. That and the fact Netflix rolls on to the next episode of a series so quickly, which can push your bedtime later and later.
The rest are more achievable, although your mornings are going to get busy, with an immediate breakfast and any exercise you want to do that day to fit in. Not eating after 7pm is going to be tricky at times, but if the rewards come in the form of better sleep in just three weeks, it’s well worth giving it a go.