Night Owls Have More Insomnia Symptoms

Study Shows Night Owls Report More Daytime Sleepiness, Worse Sleep Habits

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 17, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

April 17, 2007 - Night owls may be in the dark about insomnia compared with morning types.

A new study shows night owls report significantly more insomnia symptoms even when they get the same amount or more sleep than their morning-loving counterparts.

For example, researchers found that night owls reported more sleeping irregularities and greater distress about sleep while awake than morning types despite compensating for burning the midnight oil by waking up later or spending more time in bed.

Common symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early, and fatigue during the day.

Recent studies have linked insomnia and lack of sleep to several health problems, including an increased risk of depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Night Owls Losing Sleep

In the study, researchers compared insomnia symptoms among 312 people who went to a sleep clinic for insomnia treatment. Each of the participants kept a sleep diary for a week before treatment and filled out questionnaires about their attitudes about sleep and sleeping habits.

The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, showed that even after adjusting for the total amount of time awake as a measure of insomnia severity, those who considered themselves night owls reported more insomnia symptoms. Compared with morning types and others, night owls reported more total sleep time, more time in bed, greater variability in time in and out of bed, and higher levels of distress about sleep.

“Our findings indicate that further research should investigate the relationship between circadian rhythms and insomnia, especially with the severity of the ‘night owl’ group,” says researcher Jason Ong, PhD, of Stanford University, in a news release. “These factors may serve to perpetuate the insomnia disorder and might be particularly important to consider when treating this subgroup of insomniacs.”

Researchers say morning types appear to have more regular social rhythms than night owls, which might encourage healthier sleeping habits.

In addition, researchers say previous studies show night owls tend to report more daytime sleepiness and have a harder time adapting healthy sleeping habits than morning people.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Ong, J. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, April 15, 2007; vol 3: pp 289-294. News release, American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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