Night Owls and Worse Sleep During the Pandemic

Posted by Darian Dozier on Feb 12, 2022 5:31:00 AM

Add a subheadingNight owls and morning birds are more than cute descriptive names about one's preferred time of productivity. They are actually biologically determined adjustments to your circadian rhythm. It's important to try and align your sleep schedule with your circadian rhythm as it's very hard to change. Very rarely can someone just flip from morning bird to a night owl. Your prefered sleep time is pretty much set, but unfortunately, this has led to some sleep troubles in the pandemic. Continue reading how night owls are negatively impacted during the pandemic and what this means for companies and individuals.  

What is a chronotype? 

Chronotypes are the description of your preferred sleep pattern. There is a spectrum ranging from Definite evening-types to Definite morning types. In between these two extremes are the moderate and evening and morning and the intermediate types.

These describe the time that individuals like to be awake, so Definite evening types are also known as night owls. They stay up very late and have a circadian rhythm that is tilted a little later on the clock. They have later bedtimes and later worktimes. Definite morning types are just the opposite and then moderate and intermediate are in the middle. 

Chronotypes are genetically determined and they are hard to adjust. Just because you start waking up earlier does not make you a morning bird. Your body may still want to naturally wake up later, but you've just adjusted to waking up earlier. You peak productivity and hormonal release may still be coordinated with your chronotype and not your sleep-wake time. It is determined by your circadian rhythm which is your sleep-wake cycle. 

Pandemic Sleep Problems

The pandemic has introduced its own set of stressors, including a completely unorthodox daily schedule for most individuals. With most people working from home and school being online, our bodies are no longer relegated to the strict schedules of waking up, getting ready, going to school or work and then coming home. A majority of our days are spent at home, which seems like it may offer more sleep. However, quite the opposite is true as people are less strict with their sleep schedules, able to take naps during the day and also may be using less energy which reduces their sleep pressure. 

Whatever the reason may be, sleep in the pandemic is being severely disrupted. For those who are early birds, the pandemic may not have as great of an impact as these individuals still continue to wake up early and go to bed early. They can make their early morning online meetings and continue going to sleep early. 

However, those with a night owl, or Definite Evening chronotype may be struggling in the pandemic with the lack of ability to go to sleep in order to get up for those early morning meetings. 

Definite Evening and the Pandemic 

A study examined the role of chronotypes in a person's sleep health, mental health, and physical health. Evening types may be susceptible to chronic, long-term physical and mental health conditions over time. When asked about their quality of life and COVID-19, Evening types were more likely to report feelings of stress and sadness, as well as disturbing thoughts about themselves and the past. 

Evening types reported less sleep than other types before the pandemic, but the pandemic has eliminated those differences. Night owls are able to get a little more sleep during the day with their naps. However, even though they do get more sleep during the pandemic, the sleep problems that these individuals have erase any positive benefit of the pandemic in relation to getting good sleep. 

These individuals had the largest increase in sleep problems, experiencing an uptick in problems with poor sleep quality, sleep onset problems, sleep maintenance problems, excessive sleepiness, fatigue and nightmares. 

In comparison to morning types, during the pandemic, evening types have achieved less education, had trouble maintaining steady work during the pandemic, and had higher unemployment rates and financial hardships. The reason for these differences are intersectional, but these hardships can impact overall stress and mental health, also influencing one's ability to get good sleep. 

How to get better sleep 

Both employees and employers should pay attention to chronotypes as they are very important. The pandemic has allowed more flexibility in working and many traditional employers have discovered that the standard 8-5 in office schedule may not be necessary for everyone. In fact, those who do not fit morning types may have the hardest adjustment. If jobs can be more flexible and include work schedules that can accomodate those later chronotypes, then they may have more productive employers who are able to maintain their jobs. 

As the night owl, until corporate america standardizes a more flexible schedule, it may continue to be difficult to get the recommended amount of sleep while also making the morning meetings set by the morning types. Therefore, even though your body does not want to go to sleep, if you can, try and go to sleep at the same time every night at the later end of the night. This includes 10-12 am for a standard 8-5 schedule. If you can take naps during the day, then this can also help to maintain your sleep schedule.

If you are in charge of your schedule, then try to schedule meetings later and set a work day that works for your peak productivity. It's just very important to maintain the same schedule everyday as consistency is great for creating a healthy sleep schedule. 

In order to train your brain to go to sleep earlier than it may be ready to, try creating a sleep routine that can help you go to bed. Sleep routines are relaxing things you can do right before bed like taking a shower, stretching, meditating, and reading a book. It's important that the activities get you ready for bed, so watching TV or doing things that increase your heart rate and brain activity are antagonistic to your sleep efforts. 

If you have trouble going to sleep and think that the issues may go beyond your chronotype, then please consider speaking to a sleep professional by clicking the orange button below to take a free online sleep test. 

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