Circadian Rhythm

Circadian Rhythm; A simple tweak to the sleeping patterns of ‘night owls’ people with extreme late sleeping and waking habits could lead to significant improvements in sleep/wake timings, improve performance in the mornings, better eating habits and a decrease in depression and stress.

New international research by the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK, and Monash University in Australia, showed that, over a three-week period, it was possible to shift the circadian rhythm of ‘night owls’ using non-pharmacological and practical interventions.

Feelings of depression

The study, publish in Sleep Medicine, show participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours, while having no negative effect on sleep duration. In addition, participants report a decrease in feelings of depression and stress, as well as in daytime sleepiness.

“Our research findings highlight the ability of a simple; also 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,” lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs from Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health said.

‘Night owls’ are individuals whose internal body clock dictates later-than-usual sleep; also wake times in this study participants had an average bedtime of 2.30am and wake-up time of 10.15am. Disturbances to the sleep/wake system have link to a variety of health issues, including mood swings, increase morbidity and mortality rates; also declines in cognitive and physical performance. They want to see if there were simple things people could do at home to solve this issue. This was successful, on average allowing people; so to get to sleep and wake up around two hours earlier than they were before.

The Circadian Rhythm

Most interestingly, this was also associate with improvements in mental well being and perceive sleepiness; so meaning that it was a very positive outcome for the participants. They now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are relate to the brain; so how this links with mental well being and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes.

The results highlight an increase in cognitive (reaction time); also physical (grip strength) performance during the morning when tiredness is often very high in ‘night owls’; so as well as a shift in peak performance times from evening to afternoon. It also increase the number of days in which breakfast was consume; also led to better mental well-being, with participants reporting a decrease in feelings of stress and depression.

By acknowledging these differences and providing tools to improve outcomes; so they can go a long way in a society that is under constant pressure to achieve optimal productivity and performance, she said.  This intervention could also be apply within more niche settings, such as industry or within sporting sectors, which have a key focus on developing strategies to maximize productivity and optimize performance at certain times and in different conditions.