For some people, days are for sleeping and nights are for, well, everything else. Due to work schedules, sleep disorders like insomnia, or even just lifestyle choices, some people live somewhat nocturnal lives. While being a night owl might seem like simply a lifestyle choice or personality quirk, it turns out that the human body doesn’t really like being forced to go against its biological programming. It’s been known that night owls have much higher rates of early mortality than people who go to sleep early, but new research published this week claims to have possibly found one of the reasons behind this link. Is it time to ban night shift work?

According to research conducted by the University of Colorado, Boulder Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, staying up all night and sleeping during the day for even just a few days can significantly disrupt levels of over 100 different proteins in the blood. Many of these proteins are involved with regulating blood sugar levels, metabolic rates, and immune system function. This is the first such study to discover how these blood protein levels rise and fall over a 24-hour period and how meal timing can affect them.

Senior author Kenneth Wright, director of CU Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, says this discovery underscores the dangers of going against the body’s natural circadian rhythm:

This tells us that when we experience things like jet lag or a couple of nights of shift work, we very rapidly alter our normal physiology in a way that if sustained can be detrimental to our health.

This research could help develop treatments for night shift workers or even international travelers to help alleviate the effects of staying up all night or jet lag. Even more promising, this research could help medical professionals time treatments and tests around these blood protein cycles to ensure they are administered at the optimal time.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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