Fed up of going to bed late and not being able to get up early? This new sleep research might just be of interest to you…
Night owls and late risers are always looking for quick tips on how to get a better night’s sleep. With millennial burnout being officially recognised as a medical term earlier this month, getting our recommended full eight-hours is still as important as ever.
A recent study suggested that cutting down on screen time before going to bed could improve sleep patterns in as little as a week. And “comfort-listening” has been proven to potentially help with that night-time anxiety before nodding off.
Now, a new study has shown how night owls who find it hard to go to sleep can improve their sleep patterns and general health in just three weeks. The research, carried out by scientists at universities in the UK and Australia, suggested that simple techniques really can make a huge difference – including keeping consistent bedtimes, avoiding caffeine and getting plenty of morning sunshine.
The study used 21 “extreme night owls” who were going to bed at around 2:30 am each night and not waking up until after 10 am. After a few weeks of following instructions, their body clocks successfully shifted two hours earlier in the day. This is especially promising news for people who find it hard to set a sleep pattern that suits the regular 9-5 working life.
Here are the simple changes that participants were instructed to make:
- Wake up two-three hours earlier than usual and get plenty of outdoor light in the morning
- Eat breakfast as soon as possible
- Exercise only in the morning
- Have lunch at the same time every day and eat nothing after 7pm
- Banish caffeine after 3pm
- Have no naps after 4pm
- Go to bed two-three hours earlier than usual and limit light in the evenings
- Maintain the same sleep and wake times every day
“Having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes – from daytime sleepiness to poorer mental wellbeing,” said Dr Andrew Bagshaw from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health.
“We wanted to see if there were simple things people could do at home to solve the issue. This was successful, on average allowing people to get to sleep and wake up around two hours earlier than they were before.
“Most interestingly, this was also associated with improvements in mental wellbeing and perceived sleepiness, meaning that it was a very positive outcome for the participants. We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental wellbeing and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes.”