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article imageNew study reveals impact of being a night owl on the human brain

By Tim Sandle     Feb 18, 2019 in Health
Birmingham - New research looks at people who prefer to go to bed early compared with those who prefer to stay up later, and the impact of these different practices upon the brain. The study shows ‘night owls’ have a lower resting brain.
The researchers looked at the differences between those who prefer to go to bed early and to consequently rise earlier compared with those who prefer to go to bed late and to get up later. Where pope, have a choice in the matter, this variance is partly driven by genetics (as with the research paper “Genome-wide association analyses of chronotype in 697,828 individuals provides insights into circadian rhythms”), and by hormonal balance.
The research was of interest not only in relation to the different preferences between people, but also for its implications for shift-work and the ideal working patterns for different types of people.
The study considered the effect of different sleeping patterns upon the resting state of the brain, and here it was found that those who go to bed later have a lower brain resting state compared with those who go to bed earlier. The areas of the brain affected by the lower resting state is in the regions of the brain linked to consciousness, as detailed in the research from the University of Birmingham, U.K. The connectivity patterns were assessed through a series of experiments.
With the study, the researchers assessed the brain function of 38 people, with readings taken while the people slept. The readings related to levels of melatonin and cortisol, with data collected by magnetic resonance imaging scans. The subjects were also asked to complete questionnaires relating to on their levels of sleepiness and also note at which times during the day they felt most alert.
The data analysis revealed that so-called “morning larks” had higher resting brain connectivity. In turn this resulted in better attentional performance and less feelings of daytime sleepiness during the course of the working day. Such people were better primed for doing everyday tasks and felt less sleepy.
Speaking with the website Inverse, lead researcher Elise Facer-Childs explains: “We all know that some of us are better in the morning and some of us love burning that midnight oil, but people don’t tend to think about why and how. Our research is looking at an area of science that is so relevant to every single one of us, which makes it so accessible.”
It may also be that those who prefer going to bed later might be less suited to the traditional ‘9 to 5’ working model and that forms of shift work might well be more suited to the so-termed ‘night owls’.
The research findings have been published in the journal Sleep, with the research paper titled “Circadian phenotype impacts the brain’s resting state functional connectivity, attentional performance and sleepiness.”
More about Brain, Sleep, shift work, Daytime, Nighttime
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