Early Birds vs Night Owls: What Does Research Say About Your Sleep Preference?



The debate between early birds vs night owls has long been a topic of discussion. Research has delved into the health implications of these sleep schedules, shedding light on the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Early Birds vs Night Owls: Exploring the Health Benefits of Sleep Schedules

Studies have shown that early birds tend to have more physical activity during the day, with up to 60 to 90 minutes more activity compared to night owls. Increased physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of various serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, early birds have been found to have a lower risk of developing depression, with each hour earlier they reach their midpoint of sleep correlating to a 23% reduced risk.

Conversely, night owls may face an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Research on nurses aged 45 to 62 found that those who preferred staying up late were 54% more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, insufficient sleep, lack of exercise, and poor dietary choices. Night owls also had a 19% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, being an early bird may contribute to a longer life. A study following nearly 24,000 twins over several decades found that night people had a 9% greater risk of early mortality compared to morning individuals.

However, it’s not all negative for night owls. Earlier research has suggested that night owls tend to be more creative and mentally alert before bedtime, potentially offsetting some of the disadvantages associated with their sleep schedule.

Multiple factors influence whether someone becomes an early bird or a night owl. Dr. Beth Malow, director of the Sleep Disorders Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, notes that biological factors play a significant role but can also be influenced by habits and external factors, such as a spouse’s bedtime or job demands.

Dr. W. Christopher Winter, a neurologist and sleep medicine physician, highlights that societal judgment unfairly targets night owls. He emphasizes the importance of diversity in sleep schedules, as it ensures a functioning society that operates around the clock.

In light of this research, experts advise prioritizing the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night over trying to change one’s natural sleep schedule. Dr. Malow suggests sticking with what feels comfortable, while Dr. Winter emphasizes the importance of consistency, exercise, and a balanced diet, regardless of whether you’re an early bird or a night owl.

In conclusion, the research on early birds and night owls indicates that both sleep schedules have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Rather than vilifying one over the other, it’s essential to prioritize adequate sleep duration and maintain a consistent routine, regardless of your natural sleep preferences.

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