Try these simple tweaks to retrain your body clock for better sleep, which will help you eat healthier and feel happier too…

It is possible to change a night owl, according to new international research by the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK and Monash University in Australia.

In just three weeks, researchers were able to help night owls – people with extreme late sleeping and waking habits – to shift their body clocks (circadian rhythm) without using medication.

The study showed that participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours and reported a decrease in feelings of depression, stress and daytime sleepiness.

Bad news for night owls

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8 Habits that make all the difference

For a period of three weeks 22 healthy people, who had an average bedtime of 2.30am and wake-up time of 10.15am, were asked to do the following:

  1. Wake up two to three hours before regular wake up time
  2. Maximise outdoor light during the mornings
  3. Go to bed two to three hours before habitual bedtime
  4. Limit light exposure in the evening
  5. Keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days.
  6. Have breakfast as soon as possible after waking up
  7. Eat lunch at the same time each day
  8. Refrain from eating dinner after 7pm

“Our research findings highlight the ability of a simple non-pharmacological intervention to phase advance ‘night owls’, reduce negative elements of mental health and sleepiness, as well as manipulate peak performance times in the real world,” says lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs from Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.

Disturbances to the sleep/wake system have been linked to a variety of health issues, including mood swings, increased morbidity and mortality rates, and declines in cognitive and physical performance.

The benefits

Researchers found that after three weeks of following the lifestyle tweaks, participants showed the following improvements:

  • Better mental (reaction time) and physical (grip strength) performance in the morning, when tiredness is often very high in ‘night owls’
  • A shift in peak performance times from evening to afternoon
  • Increased the number of days in which breakfast was consumed and led to better mental well-being
  • A decrease in feelings of stress and depression

“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,” says Professor Debra Skene from the University of Surrey.

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Source: University of Birmingham via