A study of 22 "extreme night owls" - who typically go to bed on average at 2.30am and do not wake up until 10.15am - showed that sleeping patterns can be adjusted within just three weeks by taking on some small changes.
The participants were asked do the following as part of the trail, the BBC report:
- Wake up two to three hours earlier than usual and get plenty of outdoor light in the morning
- Eat breakfast as soon as possible.
- Exercise only in the morning
- Have lunch at the same time every day and eat nothing after 7pm
- Banish caffeine after 3pm
- Have no naps after 4pm
- Go to bed two to three hours earlier than usual and limit light in the evenings
- Maintain the same sleep and wake times every day
After three weeks, those tested had shifted their body clocks by two hours earlier. They still got the same amount of sleep, going to bed at roughly 12.30am and waking at around 8.15am.
The study by the University of Birmingham, University of Surrey and Monash University in Australia showed people reported lower levels of tiredness, stress and depression.
"Having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes - from daytime sleepiness to poorer mental wellbeing," said Dr Andrew Bagshaw from the University of Birmingham.
"We wanted to see if there were simple things people could do at home to solve this issue.
"This was successful, on average allowing people to get to sleep and wake up around two hours earlier than they were before.
"Most interestingly, this was also associated with improvements in mental wellbeing and perceived sleepiness, meaning that it was a very positive outcome for the participants.
"We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental wellbeing and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes."
Being a night owl is often associated with worse health. There is a growing body of evidence that says people with a preference for the evening have more erratic sleeping patterns, feel more tired during the day, consume more unhealthy foods and are more prone to depression.
"Establishing simple routines could help night owls adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health," said Debra Skene, Professor of Neuroendocrinology from the University of Surrey.
"Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian [body clock] misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes, putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes."
The study is import as it suggests poor sleep patterns can be changed through natural means rather than drugs.