Does being a night owl put you at risk for disease?

Adults tend to develop into either a daytime or nighttime person depending upon their chronotype, otherwise known as an individual sleep pattern.

As a night owl, your circadian rhythm or internal body clock operates in the opposite direction of adults who typically associate themselves with daytime productivity. While most adults are settling down for the night, night owls are experiencing an elevated level of alertness commonly associated with waking up in the morning.

You may be a night owl for employment purposes if you work an overnight shift for your job. You may also choose to develop this schedule if you prefer to work when the rest of the world has become silent. Regardless of the origin of your night owl habits, you must be aware of the heightened risk of disease associated with staying awake for prolonged periods at night. If you are forced to an irregular sleep schedule, then you will need to take the necessary precautions to prevent these risks.

How Being a Night Owl Affects Your Diet

One of the most adverse effects you can experience as a night owl is associated with your diet. Adults who typically operate during nighttime hours are more likely to make bad decisions when it comes to food and nutrition. You may sleep throughout the day and forget to purchase groceries, which can leave you in a difficult position when you awake late at night and find you have nothing in the fridge to eat. When this happens, you become limited to unhealthy food options, such as fast food or picking up snacks from a convenience store. Research has shown night owls tend to eat less fruit and vegetables compared to adults who operate during standard daytime hours, which can contribute to a variety of health risks.

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When you are consuming foods high in fat, sugar and caffeine, you may develop indigestion issues and weight gain. These issues may seem inconsequential at first, but you are putting yourself at risk of developing more serious health issues if the pattern continues. For example, maintaining a diet of fast food, caffeine and items purchased from a corner store can leave you at an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. You may feel as though you have no other choice due to limited food options available late at night. However, you must take steps to prevent yourself from relying on junk food to receive sustenance if you are up at such late hours.

How Being a Night Owl Affects Your Overall Health

In addition to affecting your diet, being a night owl can affect other areas of your health as well, such as your energy levels and mental health. Adults who classify themselves as nighttime people are more likely to develop anxiety and fatigue. When you commit to sleeping during the day and remain awake at night, your body suffers from a lack of nutrients and exercise typically associated with functioning during daytime hours. You are commonly reducing your interaction with other adults and with the sun, which you need to maintain your mental health and receive essential vitamins.

You may believe you are getting enough rest when sleeping throughout the day, but you may be putting yourself at risk of developing detrimental sleep patterns. It is difficult for your body to naturally remain asleep during daylight hours, which is why you may find yourself waking more frequently when you try to rest. This can disrupt your circadian rhythm and prevent you from entering the REM sleep cycle where you experience a true level of restfulness. Without REM sleep, you may feel exhausted or burnt out throughout the evening.

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When you are not sleeping properly, you are putting yourself at risk for developing a slew of health-related issues, such as common illnesses and depression. If you are unable to adjust your sleep cycle due to a work restriction, then you must take preventative measures to ensure you are not developing damaging patterns to your overall health.

How to Prevent the Adverse Effects of Being a Night Owl

If you cannot adjust to having a more traditional schedule, then there are steps you can take to prevent the adverse effects associated with being a night owl. If you are scheduled to complete your shift early in the morning, then make it a habit to stop at the grocery store on your way home. By visiting your grocery store more frequently, you ensure you have healthy and nutritious foods available when you wake up at night and want to make yourself something to eat. When you make better food choices, you are preventing the potential for weight gain, indigestion and other serious health issues.

To satisfy your late-night cravings in a healthier way, researchers recommend purchasing the following items from your local grocer to keep you full and energized throughout the night:

  • Baby carrots
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Bags of salad
  • Low-salt nuts
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Bananas
  • Bread
  • Whole grain crackers

This assortment of items can provide you with the nutrients and vitamins you need to sustain your body and to provide you with the energy needed to complete your work. You may add other items you enjoy eating to your meals but remain mindful of the amount of sugar, fat and caffeine you are consuming in the nighttime hours.

In addition to improving your diet, you must ensure you are getting enough sleep throughout the day when you are maintaining a night owl schedule. To achieve this task, apply blackout curtains to your windows to prevent an excess of light from seeping into your room while you are sleeping. The less light you are exposed to, the easier it is for you to enter the REM sleep cycle and gain the proper amount of rest. You may benefit from purchasing a white noise machine as well, as this can help your body rest more naturally. By reducing the amount of light and sound you encounter when sleeping, you are allowing your body to rest as it would if you were to sleep naturally at night.

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