Dr. Campbell: Are ‘early risers’ healthier?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Many of us fall into two groups based on our sleep habits — so-called “night owls” and “early risers.”

Now new research indicates that your sleep patterns may have an impact on your overall health — and those that are early risers may have a significant advantage over the night owls.

1. Tell us about this new study on the relationship between sleeping patterns and eating habits—what did they find?

Researchers in Finland found that morning people – early risers – tend to eat better and earlier in the day than late-to-bed types. This resulted in higher risk of obesity for the night owls. Previous research has shown that when we eat late at night we tend to pack on pounds and this finding seems to be consistent with that.

In addition, night owls tend to postpone the timing of food intake — this resulted in less healthy eating patterns with higher intakes of sugar, fat and saturated fat in the evening hours as compared to the early birds.

The researchers found that night owls engaged in less routine physical activity, had more difficulty sleeping, and were more likely to smoke.

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2. What do you think explains the relationship between sleeping habits and obesity?

There is a large body of research out there that indicates that important hormones that impact appetite and metabolism — the way our body uses or stores energy — are produced at different levels throughout the day and night. This can result in increased fat deposition for those who eat later in the day — the night owls.

In addition, the amount of sleep and timing of sleep may further affect the production of these hormones, and therefore drive differences in appetite or food choices

3. What can we do to ensure that we have healthier sleep and diet habits?

Changing sleep and diet habits is very difficult as we all know. Remember that this study doesn’t mean that late nights will doom you to obesity. The study only found an association between night owl habits and risk for poorer health, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

However, it is likely that making some adjustments in when you eat and sleep can have a big impact on your overall health.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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