Night owls do it tougher than other insomniacs

According to a new study night owls, those who stay up late with insomnia and then sleep longer in the mornings, have more psychological symptoms than morning insomniacs and need different treatment, even though they get more sleep.

The new study by the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, says night owls with insomnia may have a harder time of it than early risers, despite spending more time asleep.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion after studying 312 insomniacs, i.e. those who have trouble falling or staying asleep or who have poor quality sleep.

The sufferers attended the clinic in California for group therapy and were asked to complete a series of questionnaires about their sleep habits, mental health and attitudes about sleep.

The researchers placed each patient in a category of either morning, intermediate and evening chronotypes based upon scores on the Morningness-Eveningness Composite Scale; this was dependent on when they went to bed and the time of day they preferred to do things.

They found that compared with the morning and intermediate types, night owls went to bed an hour or more later but reported more time spent sleeping and more time in bed.

They slept on average for 6.4 hours, compared to 5.9 for early risers, and they spent 8.7 hours in bed compared to 7.9.

Jason Ong, a behavioral sleep psychologist at Stanford University, and the lead author of the report, says even after figures were adjusted for the severity of the insomnia (the amount of time they spent awake in bed), there were still differences between the night owls and the morning people.

Night owls were less consistent in when they went to bed and got up and appeared to have more negative and more rigid beliefs about what their sleep should be.

They reported feeling less in control of their sleep and feeling that they have a hard time getting through the day with less sleep, which might perpetuate the insomnia.

The researchers also say this group had more risk factors for depression and were more difficult to work with and reported the most sleep/wake irregularities and waking distress.

Insomnia is a classification of sleep disorders defined by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or poor quality sleep, and it is the most common sleep complaint at any age.

It is estimated that as many as thirty percent of the population reports some symptoms of insomnia, which can affect a person's job performance and may contribute to depression, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance.

Ong suggests that night owls suffering from insomnia might need different treatment than morning or day people perhaps because of problems with their internal clocks, called the circadian system.

The report is published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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