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Ask Dr. Nandi: Night owls may experience 'jet lag' on a daily basis

Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 17:40:35-05

(WXYZ) — If you like to go to bed late and get up well past sunrise, well, I have some bad news for you. A new study from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom finds people who are “night owls” have different brain activity than “early morning risers”. And this can impact your level of productivity.

So how did the researchers come to this conclusion? Well, they monitored a small group of folks for their sleeping and waking patterns.

Everyone was given an MRI scan along with a bunch of tests to see how well they did. And surprisingly, what was found was that night owls had lower brain connectivity than early morning risers. And because of this, they’re likely to be more tired during the day, have shorter attention spans along with slower reactions.

But there is good news for night owls.

Participants in the study did do a whole lot better around 8 pm at night. And that’s great. Unless you work a typical 9 -5 job. Then you may feel like you’re fighting what the researchers called “a form of constant jet-lag”.

So if your brain is hard-wired to stay up late and you struggle with your daytime job, here are my prescriptions:

  1. When you wake up, open the blinds to let morning light in or turn on some lamps. This will help suppress melatonin, which is what helps you sleep.
  2. Don’t force yourself to sleep at night when you’re not tired. This could lead to frustration and insomnia.
  3. Stick to a regular schedule even on the weekends. Sleeping in late will only keep you awake longer on Sunday night.
  4. Lastly, try asking your employer if it’s possible to shift your work hours. So that they’re more in line with your body’s innate rhythm and when your brain is most productive.

And remember that no matter what, your body needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night to function at its best.