Health and Wellbeing

Late Sleepers At Disadvantage During Routine Work Day


A new study reveals naturally late sleepers have poorer performance during regular working hours


The brain function and routine performance of night owls, or people who sleep late at night, differs from those who are early risers and may make them perform poorly compared to their peers. According to a recent article in BBC, researchers conducted studies and scans on the brains of late sleepers as well as “morning larks” – early risers – to see if they performed differently during day hours.

And the results suggested they do. Late sleepers studied during the researchers had a bedtime of 02:30 and woke around 10:15. Per the research, which was conducted between 8am and 8pm, revealed that night owls, or late sleepers, had “less connectivity in brain regions linked to maintaining consciousness”.

The night owls also reportedly had poorer ability to maintain attention, slower reactions and increased sleepiness. Based on the results, researchers said late sleepers had a clear disadvantage when it came to going about the regular work day. Besides, the researchers said there should be further research on understand health issues of night owls or late sleepers and how their performance suffers during normal working hours that they are not naturally suited to.

Night owls have to get up early for school and then for work later in life, which is against their natural sleep cycle and hence affects their performance

The study subjects included 38 people, with some night owls and others morning larks. The morning larks were categorized as those who slept around 11pm and got up at around 6:30am. Their brain functions were tested at rest using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The subjects were instructed to carry out several tasks between 8am and 8pm and asked to report on their levels of sleepiness, BBC said.

 Naturally Behind

Those classified as morning larks were least sleepy and had their fastest reaction time in the early morning tests, the report said. They also performed much better at this time than night owls.

On the other hand, night owls hot the peak of their reactions at 8 at night, although their reactions were still not significantly better than morning larks even at that time.

The researcher said brain connectivity in regions that “predicted better performance and lower sleepiness was significantly higher in larks at all time points, suggesting connectivity in late risers is impaired throughout the whole working day”

Lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs of University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health opined that the results sorted to conform to the prior knowledge that night owls remain disadvantaged all through their lives. He said night owls had to get up early for school and then later for work, which was against their natural sleep cycle and hence affected their performance.

She said there was a dire need to understand that routine school and work timings that did not match naturally late sleepers’ body clock could have health and productivity implications.

“If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time, we could go a long way towards maximising productivity and minimising health risks,” she added.

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