Sleep And Health: The Bad Effects Of Trying To Be A Morning Person

Bright-eyed early risers are known to be more productive and healthier than those night owls who prefer to hit snooze beyond 9 a.m. until the weekend. Some studies that focused on morning types versus evening types show that those who tend to be active early in the day are more persistent, self-directed and agreeable and have a better sense of well-being and lower risk of developing depression.

Despite the benefits of being a morning person, however, there are reasons why night owls should not set their alarm for 5 a.m. or earlier. Overhauling sleep times has been found to have negative effects on the body and how the brain works, especially when someone is used to spending the night working or binge-watching cat videos online. 

Drastically changing a person’s natural sleep preference can be harmful, Katharina Wulff, an Oxford University biologist who studies chronobiology and sleep, told the BBC. “If people are left to their naturally preferred times, they feel much better,” she said. However, when disrupted and pushed to be in the daytime mode, “that can have lots of negative physiological consequences,” she added.

Inherited “Biological Body Clock”

Research shows that the biological body clock or circadian rhythm can actually be inherited. This means that in some people, being a morning- or evening-oriented person happened because of the genes that were passed on to them by their parents. This genetic factor affects the length of the circadian cycle, in which for night owls, the clock often runs longer. 

Due to inherited body clock, those usually active at night might struggle to function early in the morning as their bodies think they are still asleep. Researchers said this could then lead to bad moods or could lower life satisfaction. 

Effect On The Immune System

Some hormones also rely on cues from the biological clock, particularly those for stress, like cortisol. However, study shows that when people force their bodies to stay awake longer, the stress response system tends to release more cortisol, which could then suppress the immune system and expose people to health risks, such as developing cancer. 

Effect On Metabolism

Working beyond your sleep preference might lead to eating outside of normal times. Some studies show that changes in sleep time affect the hormones responsible for hunger and metabolism. Such impact could force calories to be converted into fat instead of being burnt up. 

Heart Attack And Stroke

Researchers previously found that a slight increase in heart attack and stroke occurs due to drastic change in sleep. The heart also relies on the brain's biological clock for cues. Records show that heart problems like fatal arrhythmias are more likely to occur at certain times of the day, commonly in the early morning. However, it is less likely to happen in the evening hours.

Despite these health risks of trying to be a morning person, night owls could still become early risers. More exposure to natural light and less artificial light or less time facing the screens of computer and smartphones at night can help adjust the body clock.