Night Owls Are More At Risk For Health Problems, Early Death

A person pressing snooze on their alarm clock

Researchers tracked nearly half a million adults in the United Kingdom over six and a half years, and found that the people who identified as "definite evening types" at the start of the study had a 10% higher chance of all-cause mortality compared with those who said they were "definite morning types", the BBC reports.

Night owls run a 10% higher risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, psychological abnormalities and an increased possibility of dying. Six-and-a-half years later, the participants who had identified themselves as "definite evening types" where 10 percent more likely to have died than the "definite morning types", even after adjusting for factors like age, existing health conditions, and time devoted to sleep each night.

Scientists who studied a population of almost half a million Britons found that over a six-year period, night owls had a ten per cent greater risk of death than morning larks.

"Night owls trying to live in a morning-lark world may (suffer) health consequences", said fellow author Kristen Knutson of Northwestern University in Chicago.

"The switch to daylight saving time is perceived as more uncomfortable by evening types than morning types", the study said, "placing a further burden on individuals who are already struggling with when to start the working day".

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On top of this, it's also true that being up late can encourage life-shortening activities, from "eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use", says Knutson.

'There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself'.

"It is a public health problem that cannot be ignored", said Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at Surrey University.

"You're not doomed", added Dr Knutson.

Try to get your to-do list checked off early each day to help you get to bed on time. "Some people may be better suited to night shifts".

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Another potential factor is that the world is simply set up more for morning people.

"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".

"If you looked in Spain, where people are much later in terms of when they go to work", he told CNN, "my guess is that the health consequences are probably less than in the United Kingdom".

They're investigating whether bright light therapy in the morning, or melatonin in the evening, might be able to shift our chronotype, possibly improving health outcomes.

Finally, she suggests quality of sleep also has a significant impact on health - which makes a lot of sense.

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