Why Losing Weight May Be Harder for Night Owls

New study finds that night owls have trouble exercising and are more sedentary.

Posted Jun 19, 2014

Are you a night owl and wondering how to lose weight? If so, one important step to help you meet your goals is to say good night to going to bed late. A new study has found that night owls are more sedentary and find it difficult to stick to exercise schedules.

With the hectic day-to-day of work, home life, and those unexpected last-minute problems, just getting to bed at a decent hour can prove problematic. Well, it turns out that going to bed late on a regular basis can severely impact your plans for losing weight and exercising.

Past research has shown a connection between later sleep timing and poorer health behaviors, yet few studies have focused on the relationship between sleep timing and exercise. Researchers from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois decided to investigate this connection between sleep timing and physical activity.

The research abstract was published in the journal Sleep and the research findings were presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies' annual meeting, SLEEP 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For the study researchers recruited 123 healthy adults with daily sleep durations of at least six and a half hours. For seven days, researchers monitored the participants' sleeping patterns, sleep duration, and physical activity. The participants recorded their exercise schedules in journals as well as filled out physical activity questionnaires to monitor their attitudes to exercise.

Night owls averaged sleep start times of about 1:00 AM and end times of about 8:00 AM.

The study found that later sleep time was associated with a number of poorer physical activity behaviors.

First, sleep timing was linked to more minutes sedentary.

"Waking up late and being an evening person were related to more time spent sitting, particularly on weekends, and with difficulty making time to exercise" said chief investigator Kelly Glazer Baron, Ph.D. as reported by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Baron is the associate professor of neurology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.

Second, the findings indicated that sleep timing was linked to greater perceived challenges for engaging with exercise. The study found that night owls had lower physical self-efficacy and greater barriers to exercise than others.

Night owls reported:

  • More trouble sticking to exercise schedules
  • Difficulty making time for exercise
  • Greater feelings of discouragement by others

"This was a highly active sample averaging 83 minutes of vigorous activity per week," said Baron. "Even among those who were able to exercise, waking up late ... and being an evening person made it perceived as more difficult."

Considering that these participants were healthy individuals engaged in vigorous activity, the study shows how important sleep is for individuals wanting to lose weight, especially for less active adults who already have difficulty exercising.

So when designing your exercise routine don't forget to consider your sleep schedule as well. Just remember...

Earlier to bed, earlier to your weight loss!


Adoree Durayappah, M.A.P.P., M.B.A., is a writer with an addiction to academia. Learn more at AdoreeDurayappah.com.

About the Author

Adoree Durayappah

Adoree Durayappah-Harrison is a graduate of three masters programs, one in Applied Positive Psychology from UPENN, another in Buddhist practices from Harvard.

More Posts