Like millions of people around the world, I am a night owl. As the early birds hit the sack, I feel like I’m just getting going.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t set up for people like me. Instead, it paves the way for early birds to flourish.

So I’ve often wondered whether I can retrain myself to be less of a late night gal, and more of an early riser…

Turns out, you can

That’s right; new research shows it’s possible.

The study, published in Sleep Medicine, found participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours, while having no negative effect on sleep duration.

In fact, changing their internal clocks turned out to be a good thing, with participants reporting a decrease in feelings of stress and depression, as well as experiencing less daytime sleepiness.

“Establishing simple routines could help ‘night owls’ adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health,” Professor Debra Skene from the University of Surrey said.

She went on to explain that insufficient sleep and circadian ‘misalignment’ can disrupt many bodily processes “putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes”.

Ouch.

Sleep consultant Dr David Cunnington is the co-founder of Sleep Hub. He says it can be good for night owls to retrain to earlier times, “particularly if their work hours or family commitments require them to be up early in the morning”.

So, how can you do it?

In order to change their sleep patterns, the participants in the study needed to:

Wake up 2-3 hours before regular wake up time and maximize their outdoor light exposure during the morning.

Go to bed 2-3 hours before habitual bedtime.

Limit light exposure in the evening.

Keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days (farewell, weekend sleep ins!)

Have breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7pm.

The 22 participants did these behaviours for three weeks for the study.

So, is it worth doing all that?

If you need to fit in with an early-bird lifestyle and you’re a chronic night owl, then, as mentioned before, Dr Cunnington says it may be good to try and adapt your sleep patterns.

“However,” he says, “if there is not an essential reason to be up early, night owls should consider arranging their day around their later sleep pattern and work with it rather than always trying to force their sleep to an earlier time”.

So the bottom line is, if you can change your lifestyle to embrace your sleep patterns, then by all means do that.

Let your inner night owl spread her wings and rejoice.

But if you’re a night owl flailing in a world geared towards early birds, this research offers hope that you can adjust your sleep patterns.

If you’re willing to put in a little work, that is.

As for me, I love the idea of being able to nod off with ease at a reasonable time, but don’t know if it’s time to clip my night-owl wings just yet.

After all, the idea of going to bed 2-3 hours earlier than normal just seems a little too much for me right now. And don’t even get me started on the idea of having to wake up that much earlier, too…