Night owls are at risk of various diseases because of poor eating habits, reveals study

Unlike morning people, night owls function better at night. Individuals who prefer a late-night lifestyle may be more productive in the evening, but according to health experts, they could also be at risk of different health problems because they tend to eat a lot of unhealthy foods.

The study, which was published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, was conducted by a team of researchers that included employees from Nestle.

Poor nutrition and long-term health problems

For the study, researchers analyzed the negative health impact of being a night owl by examining what certain individuals eat while they’re awake early in the morning. The scientists involved in the study set out to answer the question “Does your bedtime affect your health?”

The researchers warned that your bedtime does indeed influence your well-being.

They focused on an individual’s chronotype. Often called a circadian rhythm, a chronotype determines when you prefer to wake up in the morning and when you prefer to go to sleep at night.

If you like to wake up early and go to sleep early, you have a morning chronotype. If you prefer to wake up late and go to sleep late, you have an evening chronotype.

For the study, the researchers examined current data on the health habits of morning people and night owls. They found that night owls often ate fewer fruits and vegetables and consumed more energy drinks, as well as alcoholic, sugary, and caffeinated beverages. They also had a higher energy intake from fat.

According to a handful of observational studies, night owls are also more likely to change what time they eat and skip meals, which often turns out to be breakfast.

The study brings up an important concern about sleeping schedules and eating habits, but it doesn’t suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between staying up late and eating poorly.

What does a night owl usually eat?

Unfortunately, “night owl” hours coincide with the closing hours of grocery stores and healthier restaurants that offer food delivery. This means night owls are stuck with eating food from corner stores and fast-food restaurants. These places usually offer unhealthy food full of fat, salt, and sugar.

According to Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, when you consume food full of fat and sugar late in the day, you also require long digestion periods. This may cause indigestion and unwanted weight gains. Morrison warned that it could increase your risk of having a stroke. (Related: Are you a night owl? You may be at risk of dying earlier, according to research.)

Most of the time, night owls consume large meals in the evening and this may have a serious impact on your sleeping habits, especially if you’re snacking on junk food with a lot of preservatives and unhealthy ingredients.

When plotted out on a timeline, these food choices are linked to “shorter lives filled with a lot of painful diseases.”

Dr. Steven Zodkoy, director of Monmouth Advanced Medicine and author of the book “Misdiagnosed: The Adrenal Fatigue Link,” explained that the main reason night owls exist is an abnormal cortisol rhythm. While the majority of people have higher levels of the hormone cortisol in the morning, chronically stressed individuals experience this peak later in the day.

Dr. Zodkoy added that night owls often have a shift in the normal pattern. This means the later your brain fully wakes up, the later it’s ready to rest during bedtime. This shift is linked to other symptoms of “Type-A personality” traits such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Burnout
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Weight gain

To address these health problems, Dr. Zodky suggests that night owls should exercise regularly, manage their stress, and make other lifestyle changes.

How can night owls improve their eating habits?

If you’re a night owl, you don’t have to follow an unhealthy diet full of junk food. Start by going out to the grocery store earlier in the day and buying healthy snacks.

Nutritious snack options include carrot sticks, nuts, salads, or whole grain bread and crackers. You can also make the following snacks:

  • Avocado slices on toast – Use whole-wheat bread or rye when choosing your bread for your toast. Avocado has natural, healthy fats that will keep you full until breakfast.
  • Banana with almond, cashew, or peanut butter – Nut butter has healthy fats and proteins that will keep you full while banana sweetens the dish, making this the perfect snack for people with a sweet tooth.
  • Fruit and nut mix – Make your own fruit and nut mix. It’s sweet, salty, and nutritious, unlike chips. Use ingredients like almonds, banana chips, candied orange peels, cashews, coconut chunks, dark chocolate chips, dried fruit (e.g., apples, apricots, cranberries), granola, peanuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Whether you’re a night owl because of your job or your personal habits, making lifestyle changes like eating healthier will help lower your risk of developing health problems.

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