Sleep is one of the most important factors in taking care of your physical and mental health, but even though there’s plenty of concern over how many hours of shut-eye you clock in every night and the quality of sleep you’re getting, does the question of when you sleep make a difference in your overall health? For example, I trained myself to be an early riser because waking up at the crack of dawn and knowing that I’ve been productive since 6 a.m. makes me feel amazing. But what are the healthy habits for night owls who aren’t naturally nocturnal? What helps them thrive throughout the evening? I mean, personally, I give anyone who stays up past 11 p.m. a lot of credit, because I can barely stay up past 9 p.m. on weeknights — OK, OK most nights — but seriously, how do you actively prepare yourself to stay awake well into the late hours of the night?
For me, staying up late would probably require caffeine — and lots of it. But here’s the thing about downing a lot of caffeine: An excessive amount of the stuff can actually lead to insomnia, according to Healthline. So, sure, caffeine will keep you up, but if you go overboard on refills, too much can a) make it difficult to fall asleep when you’re ready to hit the hay, and b) mess with your sleep cycle overall, in that your quality of sleep may suffer as well, as per Healthline. In other words, there goes that idea.
Some people are natural-born night owls, some come out of the womb all about the early mornings, and then there’s a percentage of people who don’t exactly get to choose whether they prefer to stay up late or wake up early. Sometimes you have to live life according to your given circumstances — meaning, if you’re working night shifts at your job, or taking evening classes for grad school, then you’re going to have to navigate doing so in a healthy way because, unfortunately, there are some negative health issues linked to the nocturnal lifestyle, according to the results of a new study.
The study, performed by a team of researchers at Northumbria University in England and published in the biomedical journal Advances in Nutrition, found that night owls tend to develop unhealthy eating habits over time, which can lead to a higher risk of developing health issues like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as per a press release from Northumbria University. Basically, this happens because, when your circadian rhythm (aka your body’s internal clock that controls when you naturally feel tired at night and wake up in the morning) has to work with a schedule where you’re staying up late and sleeping in on a regular basis, your eating schedule can be thrown off-kilter, too. In other words, the later you start and end your day, the later you eat your meals, and, as per Northumbria University’s press release, the more inclined you may be to have “more alcohol, sugars, and caffeinated beverages than early risers.”
Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way for all night owls; as long as you’re mindful about adopting a few healthy habits, you should be in the clear. Here are a few expert tips to help train yourself to function on a night owl’s schedule, without risking your health in the process.
Get Familiar With Places That Are Open Late
If you’re new to the nocturnal scene, it can feel like an entirely different world. When you’re waking up later in the day and staying up/out late into the night, sometimes the only resources you have to lean on are fast-food joints, 24-hour convenience stores, bodegas, and the like. But instead of relying on to-go orders alone, why not familiarize yourself with your surroundings — like the businesses that stay open late near the office or around campus — and scope out the healthiest options so that, when you’re in dire need of an energy boost or some good noms, you know exactly where to go?
In fact, ADT Security Services recently conducted a study on the best cities for early birds and night owls, and according to Brandon Fleming, senior online manager for ADT & Protection 1 Security, the research found that knowing which businesses are open late can legitimately be helpful for those who are looking to stay motivated and energized as they burn the midnight oil. "When restaurants, nightlife, gyms, and coffee shops are open late," Fleming tells Elite Daily over email, "night owls can choose to get out of the house when they are feeling their most energetic and productive."
Just make sure you aren’t bouncing from one cafe to the next for an overloaded caffeine fix, or relying heavily on fast-food chains when the late-night cravings come around. Do your best to stick to nutritious options to fuel your body, and if you have to drink coffee, remember, everything in moderation, friend.
Swap Cups Of Caffeine For Bottles Of Water
Listen, I know it’s hard enough drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of water per day, let alone pouring glass after glass of H2O instead of mug after mug of coffee in the evenings when you’re trying to stay awake. However, according to Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, water is going to be your drink of choice once caffeine leads to a crash, and energy drinks leave you feeling too jittery and unable to sleep when it’s finally time for bed.
"Hydrating yourself with water is the key to fighting fatigue and maintaining focus and concentration," Glatter tells Elite Daily, insisting that water is key to, and I quote, "staying on your A game." "This means avoiding caffeine, sugar, and energy drinks, which have a rebound effect, leading you to ‘crash,’" he explains.
Prep Healthy Late-Night Meals And Snacks
Pop into the kitchen right this instant and check out the Tupperware situation. Got some? Great! You’re going to need it for this next tip.
The thing is, ordering take-out in moderation obviously isn’t the end of the world, but having too much of anything is pretty much never a good way to live. And while, sure, you could review the take-out menu and stick to ordering the healthiest dishes, meal-prepping a few healthy options to reach for when your stomach starts rumbling late at night is really the best thing you can do for your body. "Slow-digesting carbs, healthy fats, lean protein, and adequate water intake will sustain you well into the evening and through the night," Glatter explains.
So instead of going for greasy, processed fast foods, Glatter suggests sticking with healthy unsaturated fats (think nuts, avocado, olive oil), carbs that your body can digest slowly for sustained energy (think sweet potatoes and quinoa), and healthy proteins (salmon, skinless white meat chicken, etc.).
Find Your Zen Now To Feel Energized Later
Speaking of prepping ahead of time, Glatter also says that meditating or performing a relaxing yoga sequence, either when you wake up in the morning or have a free second in the afternoon, can help you sustain and take advantage of that positive energy when approaching a long night ahead.
However, if you have a packed schedule that doesn’t really allow more than five minutes or so of chill time, I highly suggest downloading an app like Headspace or INSCAPE for guided practices that are quick, yet effective.
Pop Some Melatonin To Help Make The Most Of Your Sleep
ZzzQuil Vicks PURE Zzzs Melatonin Sleep Aid Gummies
If you’re naturally an early riser, and your job or class schedule is pretty much forcing you to become a night owl, chances are the transition is going to mess with your sleep cycle a little bit. Melatonin, a natural hormone your body produces that regulates your sleep-wake schedule, can help.
"Melatonin can help to regulate your sleep-wake schedule if you know that you will be working evenings or nights," Glatter tells Elite Daily. "Along with proper nutrition and hydration, it may be quite helpful in providing you with focus and energy required for night work."
In case you’re looking for product recs, I’ve personally had a great experience taking two of these melatonin gummies from ZzzQuil any time I was feeling particularly antsy at night. They also have just a plain pill supplement, if that’s more your scene, but I low-key love any excuse to consume something that tastes like candy and is good for your body. Yes, I realize how childish this is. No, I am not ashamed.
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