A New Sleep Study: 4 Ways 'Night Owls' Can Reset their Body Clocks

By Sejal Shah | Posted: June 13, 2019

"Night owls" are people who naturally feel wide awake at night and wake up tired and well past sunrise. According to a new study done at the University of Birmingham, these nocturnally-oriented folks have different patterns of brain activity compared with "morning larks”.

If night owls are forced to stick to a typical 9-to-5 schedule, these differences can make life more difficult for them, not just professionally, but socially and medically too. Mounting evidence suggests that there are real health risks associated with sleep-wake cycles that don’t line up with the rest of society.

"Having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes – from daytime sleepiness to poorer mental wellbeing," says Dr. Andrew Bagshaw, a co-author of the study.

But here’s the good news:

Over 3 weeks, researchers Dr. Andrew Bagshaw and Dr. Facer-Childs trained 22 ‘night owls’ who are otherwise healthy to reset their sleep patterns, and the results are pretty remarkable. These participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timing by two hours while having no negative effect on how long they slept. And even better, the participants also reported lower levels of depression and stress, as well as a decrease in daytime sleepiness, and an improved performance at work.

Here is how a ‘night owl’ can reset their sleep clock

For a period of three weeks, participants in the experimental group were asked to do the following four things:

  1. Wake up 2-3 hours before their regular wake-up time and maximize outdoor light during the mornings.

  1. Go to bed 2-3 hours before their habitual bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening.

  2. Keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days.

  3. Have breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7 pm.

If you are a night owl, you may also be able to change your sleep patterns and improve your health by gradually adjusting and incorporating these 4 changes into your routine.

According to Professor Debra Skene from the University of Surrey, "Establishing simple routines could help 'night owls' adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health. Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.”

Though a new study but it has ancient roots

The ancient healing science of Ayurveda is based on the concept of ‘Dinacharya’. Dinacharya is a Sanskrit word made up of ‘dina,’ meaning day, and ‘acharya,’ meaning activity. According to Dr. Ganesh Puttur of Sri Sri Ayurveda Hospital in India, “dinacharya is a daily routine designed to maintain and connect us to our circadian rhythms or internal body clocks. While Ayurveda has emphasized the importance of a connection with nature for millennia, western scientists are only now beginning to understand exactly how important it is for the body to stay connected to the rhythms of nature. Disconnection from circadian rhythms is called chrono-disruption. It is linked to a host of health concerns, including poor cognitive function, mood and sleep disorders, daytime sleepiness, reduced school performance, substance abuse, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.”

Are you looking for making changes in your routine?

If you’ve been trying to change your body clock and haven’t been successful yet, you may be wondering how long will it take to ingrain the new pattern for good!

The 1960s pop psychology book Psycho-Cybernetics says it takes a minimum of 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gel.

Another study done in 2009 published in The European Journal of Social Psychology found it took, on average, 66 days to form a habit, such as eating fruit at lunch or running for 15 minutes a day. But in the study, the actual number of days ranged from 18 to 254 days - indicating that it can take a very short or a very long time!

So some of you may be able to change your pattern in 18 days, but some of you may take a little longer. Don’t give up. Hang in there, even if you may take longer, because the results you will get are going to change the rest of your life for good.

Some more useful reads for you

13 Daily Rituals of Yoga and Ayurveda from When You Wake Up to Sleep

8 Sleeping Tips: How You Can Beat Screen Time, and Rest Mind and Body

These 6 Tips for Better Sleep Will Help You Finally Get Some Rest

We are with you in your journey, every step of the way! Godspeed on your journey to better sleep and a healthier you!


By Sejal Shah, E-YRT 500 Sri Sri Yoga Teacher, YACEP, Art of Living Teacher, NYU Post Graduate Medical School approved Yoga-CME retreat facilitator, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Homeopath. She can be followed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Disclaimer: This content on the Art of Living Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and the Art of Living Blog is not responsible for their content.


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