Early Bird or Night Owl, and What That Means for People with Diabetes

Published in September of this year, a new ongoing study from the University of Leicester and the University of South Australia found that “night-owl” patients with Type 2 diabetes exercised a total of 56% less than their “early-bird” counterparts. They also regularly went to sleep and exercised later, and the intensity of that activity peaked at lower levels.

The important takeaway here? With the outcome data from this study, we’ve got something new to act on in the treatment of diabetes. If we know a patient with diabetes tends to be a night owl (or if we happen to be burning the midnight oil ourselves more often than not), there’s even more reason than usual to encourage them to engage in higher activity levels, when possible. (Caveat: we get that this is not always so simple or easy. Diabetes, by definition, frequently means feeling sluggish and biochemically disinclined to move. But that said, more activity is still the ticket.)

Changing habitual behavior — whether it’s smoking, overeating, self-medicating with alcohol, gossiping, procrastinating, arguing — is already plenty hard. It takes practice, awareness, and conscious decision making, moment by moment, slowly and incrementally. (Creating Positive Change, anyone?)

Small changes, incorporated into your daily schedule, can all add up significantly over time. They can be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk after dinner; or, pacing around the house while talking on the phone. Doing stretches or leg lifts while watching TV. Jiggling a leg while seated. Setting a timer on the laptop, to get up and stretch every 20 minutes...

Consult your endocrinologist, nurse practitioner, diabetes educator, personal coach, best pal, or support group for simple, easy tips on moving more.  

And happy World Diabetes Day! We’ve come a long way in understanding this pesky condition, thanks to the incremental buildup of research knowledge in the databases, and thanks to studies like this one.