I’m a Night Owl—What Does That Mean for My Weight?

By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

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 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.

A recent study in the journal Obesity looked at the eating habits of Finnish adults to identify them as an early bird or a night owl — and how that may affect their weight in the future. They 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 interesting: Night owls had a lower calorie intake in the morning than early birds — 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 percent were classified as night owls, while 49 percent were early birds, and 39 percent 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.    

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:

  • Are you a night owl? If so, pay strong attention to your eating habits, especially in the evening. Consider how you divide your SmartPoints® values over the course of the day.
  • Get moving. In the study, the night owls were less likely to be physically active. So while anyone can benefit from creating a workout schedule, night owls may see extra advantage in scheduling in workout time.
  • Don’t take it to heart. If you’re a night owl, that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to have a hard time keeping the weight off.  So long as you stay within your SmartPoints budget, your status doesn’t really matter. After all, BMI was similar between all of the groups in the study!

Are you an early bird, a night owl, or do you fall in between? How does this affect your eating habits? Tell me on Connect @amy_gorin!

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Amy Gorin is a freelance writer and registered dietitian nutritionist in New Jersey. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.