Night owls more likely to die younger than early birds

Research based on 500,000 people found they had a higher chance of death over the six-and-a-half year period they were being studied

Research based on 500,000 people found they had a higher chance of death over the six-and-a-half year period they were being studied

That's according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, which found people who stay up late and sleep in late have a 10 percent higher risk of dying sooner compared to early risers.

The duo gathered information on almost half-a-million people aged 38-73 from a public database. "Approximately, 27 percent identified as definite morning types, 35 percent as moderate morning types, 28 percent as moderate evening types and 9 percent as definite evening types", they wrote.

The six-and-a-half-year study recorded just over 10,500 deaths among the studied.

The research found "night owls" had a 10% greater risk of dying than morning people. Those who are "evening person" are more likely to suffer from diabetes, stomach and breathing troubles and psychological disorders.

"It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", Knutson said. A 2017 study claims those tendencies could be linked to your genes.

While pointing to an increased mortality rate for those who stay up late and struggle in the morning, researchers did not dive deep into the reasons for increased early death risks. In the mean time, society could play a role in catering to a person's morning or evening preferences. These include cardiovascular disease, higher rates of obesity and smoking, psychiatric disorders, and an overall 10% increased risk for death, according to a study newly published in the journal Chronobiology International. "There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark".

For those who are night owls by choice or by circumstance - shift workers, for example - Knutson recommends focusing on other lifestyle choices that can influence their health. Getting too little sleep is also known to have negative health effects, but the new study found little difference between the self-reported sleep of morning people and that of evening people, the researchers said.

"This first report of increased mortality in evening types is consistent with previous reports of increased levels of cardiometabolic risk factors in this group", the study reads.

One way night owls could help themselves was to ensure they are exposed to light early in the morning, but not at night, according to Dr Knutson.

"If we can recognize these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls", says Knutson. "We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical", von Schantz added.

Even more, passing towards the daylight saving time coincides with a higher incidence of heart attacks and for the late risers is more hard to adapt to the change, say the researchers. Knutson said that "you're not doomed".

Being a night owl was associated with psychological stress, eating at the wrong time, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, and drug or alcohol use.

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