Night owls face greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes

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night-owl(NaturalHealth365)  You may have heard the saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  However, not everyone likes to go to bed early.  Some people are “early birds,” while others tend to be “night owls.”

Yet, new information published in Experimental Physiology suggests that being an early riser could decrease your risk of some chronic diseases.  The research indicates that “night owls” may actually be at higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Are “night owls” at greater risk of chronic disease?

The recent research, completed at Rutgers University in New Jersey, evaluated participants according to what times of day they preferred to sleep or be active.  Researchers looked at factors like body mass and composition, insulin sensitivity, and fat and carbohydrate metabolism.  Study participants ate a controlled diet so that diet would not alter the study results.  They were subsequently monitored over the course of a week.

Researchers measured the participants’ fuel preferences, which refers to whether their bodies favored carbohydrates or fats as energy fuel.  To gather this information, researchers performed tests at rest and then during two bouts of exercise.  The “night owl” group of participants exhibited a propensity to use carbohydrates instead of fats and also showed signs of insulin resistance.  Furthermore, the “early birds” demonstrated higher aerobic fitness levels.

Why night owls may face a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes

The study findings are concerning for those of us who prefer to stay up late.  People in the “early bird” category like to rise and be active earlier in the day.  Researchers found that these people were more likely to use fat as an energy source and use insulin more efficiently.

For night owls, the trouble lies in the metabolic differences.  The impaired insulin response shown by the night owl group puts them at a higher risk of developing two dangerous chronic conditions – cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

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While the reason for the metabolic disparity between early birds and night owls remains unclear, researchers believe it may be related to the body’s circadian rhythms.  These natural sleep/wake cycles appear to play some role in how the body uses insulin, contributing to higher disease risk in some people.

How to sleep better and stay healthier

Given the study findings, it may be worth paying attention to Benjamin Franklin’s words after all.  Additionally, those who stay up late often miss out on valuable parts of the natural sleep cycle.  Your deepest sleep occurs earlier in the night instead of later.  In fact, sleeping between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am are the most restorative for your body.

Consequently, your sleep will tend to be less restorative when you stay up very late, missing out on this vital cycle.

So how can you get the most out of your precious sleeping hours?  For one, minimize light from screens, caffeine, and alcohol late in the evening to help your mind and body better prepare for sleep.  You’ll also find it quite helpful to expose yourself to the night by going outside for 30 – 60 minutes.  This will help you to “settle down” after a stressful day.  Putting your bare feet on the ground will give you added benefits for a good night’s sleep.

Of course, getting enough exercise – on a regular basis – will help.  And get up a bit earlier, so you’re ready for bed sooner.

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