Daily Pilot Feature: Healthy Wise Owls

Night Owl

Column: Early birds may get the worm but are night owls actually the ones who are wealthy and wise?

“I’d say there is a big social environmental element,” said Dr. Jay Puangco, chief of service for Sleep Medicine at the Hoag Voltmer Sleep Center.

“Someone who’s a night owl who still has to get up early — that’s not healthy.”

Whatever one’s tendency, the main focus should be on quantity, quality and consistency of sleep, Puangco said. 

And on all three factors, our workaholic, tech-obsessed society often falls short.

Sleep deprivation is increasingly recognized as a major health issue.

“It’s almost a badge of honor if you don’t sleep, like you’re working harder,” he said. “But if you get enough sleep you enter the day with more clarity. You actually work smarter.”

Puangco said that of the three pillars of good health — diet, exercise and sleep — he chose to devote his career as a neurologist to sleep because “it impacts everything,” including cognition and the cardiac and immune systems.

“Nothing can substitute for sleep.”

He is encouraged that sleep issues are starting to receive more attention. For instance, he said, a few years ago, the huge and influential Consumer Electronics Show began featuring a section on sleep. 

Big-name athletes, recognizing the importance of sleep to optimizing performance, have hired “sleep coaches.” Some people have started tracking their sleep on their smart watches.

“Everyone is recognizing that sleep gives them the edge,” he said. “It’s kind of a secret weapon.”

So what does this mean for the night owls of the world?

Some health care specialists, noting the growing awareness of distinct biological rhythms, argue that this is one more reason why we should move toward more-flexible work environments. And, in an effort to conform to teenage sleep patterns, many schools are adjusting to later start times.

But I remain skeptical. Minor changes aside, I am resigned to the reality that my vampirish sleeping proclivities won’t be widely embraced anytime soon.

I will never be the one to catch the proverbial worm, but I can live with that. I’ll settle for a midnight snack and a good book while the rest of you are dreaming.

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