By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Is being an early bird or night owl better? Does either affect your sleep and weight loss? Find out if being a night owl vs. an early bird is best for your sleep-weight-loss outlook!
How does being an early riser versus a night owl affect your weight? Is one versus the other better for your sleep and weight loss? Does being a night owl make it harder to lose weight, affect your metabolic rate, or limit your hours of sleep per night? Find out the answers here!
I am so not a morning person. I never will be. If the rest of the world weren’t on a 9-to-5 schedule, I would probably stay up until the late hours of the night working—and then sleep in, of course! But that’s not the way of the world, so I struggle a little bit to get out of bed early in the morning.
So yup, I'm a night owl, and I usually get a second wind late at night. I seriously envy morning people. Let's see, though, how being a night owl affects weight and health.
Night Owl vs. Early Bird: Which is Better?
When it comes to your weight, as well as diet and exercise, is being an early bird or night owl better for you?
Are you a night owl or an early bird? A study shows your sleep schedule could impact your ability to maintain a healthy weight. The study in Obesity looked at the eating habits of Finnish adults to identify them as early birds or night owls—and how that may affect their weight in the future.
The study authors looked at more than 1,800 people, ages 25 to 74, assessing what they reported they ate for two days, as well as whether they were early birds or night owls.
The findings are super interesting. Night owls had a lower calorie intake in the morning than morning types—but one that was higher in sugar. And in the evening, the night owls ate more calories, sugar, fat, and saturated fats, versus early birds, although calorie intake over the course of the day was similar.
The differences between early birds and night owls were even more obvious during weekend eating, when night owls had more eating occasions and ate more calories, versus early birds.
Of the adults studied, only 12% were classified as night owls, while 49% were early birds and 39% landed in the middle (so you don’t have to be one or the other). Interestingly, night owls were more likely to be younger women who were highly educated, physically inactive, and current smokers.
The study authors note that night owls may have a higher risk of obesity and metabolic disturbances—but more research is needed.
Weight-Loss Tips for Night Owls
So what does this all mean for you? Use these tips to make your early bird, night owl, or somewhere-in-between status work for you.
While night owls like me do tend to eat more calories, sugar, and fat in the evenings, late risers aren't automatically destined for weight-loss failure. You can make a few easy changes to make your night owl status work for you.
Pay Attention to What You Eat
Give strong attention to your eating habits, especially in the evening. Consider how you divide your calorie allotment over the course of the day.
Move, Move, Move!
In the study, the night owls were less likely to be physically active. So while anyone can benefit from creating a workout schedule, a night owl may see extra advantage in scheduling in workout time.
Don't Get Discouraged
This blog post was updated in August 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
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I'd love to hear from you! Are you a night owl or early bird? Do you feel sleep deprived, or like your circadian rhythm is affected by your bedtime or lack of sleep?