Are Night Owls more likely to experience SAD and the winter blues?

13 Oct 2020

Being a Night Owl is hard. 

The 9–5 working day is not designed for people who struggle with early starts. For those of us who feel more active later in the day, it feels like our work lives and inner clocks are pulling in different directions. 

As if it wasn’t hard enough already for evening types, there appears to be yet another challenge. Research suggests there is a correlation between being a Night Owl and experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or its milder form the winter blues.

Large scale studies in Finland and Russia both found that participants with symptoms of SAD had significantly increased odds of being evening chronotypes.

It’s a relatively new idea and more research is needed. (A smaller study in Poland, for example, didn’t observe the same effect.) What is clear, however, is that Night Owls face unique challenges. Other studies have shown that evening types have an increased risk of heart disease and metabolic conditions.

And from our own data at LYS, we’ve seen how Night Owls struggle with unhealthy screen habits and find it difficult to stick to regular sleep patterns, waking up and going to bed at more irregular times.

How Night Owls can beat SAD and the winter blues

Your chronotype may be genetic. But your behaviour and environment have a strong influence over your circadian rhythms too. That means we all have some control over our inner clocks; there are tactics and strategies for maintaining a healthy daily rhythm.

If you’re a Night Owl – or any other type for that matter – struggling with SAD and low mood at the moment, here some simple tips to make it through the winter months.

  • Try to get up at the same time each day – seven days a week. A regular wake-time in the morning leads to regular times of sleep onset and helps align your circadian rhythms.
  • Use morning light to advance your body clock. To shift your sleep-wake cycles towards morning – and find it easier to get up early – sleep scientists often recommend getting 30 minutes of natural light within an hour of waking.
  • Avoid screen time and bright lights in the evening. Ideally at least 60 to 90 minutes before you go to bed.

Learn about your sleep-wake cycles with LYS

Whether you’re a Night Owl or a Morning Lark, we should all be more mindful of the connection between our inner clocks and our health.

At LYS we’ve designed a series of wellbeing programmes to help people learn about their sleep-wake cycles. Using wearable technology and in-app behavioural coaching, we help people work towards healthier daily routines and habits.

Find out more about how LYS can help you beat the winter blues