Night owls 'more likely to die early'

  • Night owls 'more likely to die early'

Night owls 'more likely to die early'

Folks who stay up late and struggle to wake in the morning have a 10 percent higher risk of dying sooner than so-called "morning larks" who are early to bed and early to rise, said lead researcher Kristin Knutson.

The researchers relied on data from the UK Biobank - a large prospective cohort study conducted between 2006 and 2010 that investigated risk factors for major diseases in men and women 37 to 73 years of age.

At the beginning of the study period, participants were asked whether they considered themselves to be morning people or evening people, or whether they felt they fell somewhere in between those two groups.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Chronobiology International, tracked nearly half a million adults in the United Kingdom over an average of 6½ years.

"Research based on 50,000 people in the United Kingdom found they had the higher chance of death over the six-and-a-half year period they were being studied", an article by Daily Mail read in part.

Moreover, evening people were at a higher risk for conditions like diabetes, psychological and neurological disorders - plus certain types of respiratory and gastrointestinal/abdominal issues. "It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", Knutson added. A 2017 study claims those tendencies could be linked to your genes.

The study only found an association, and it couldn't say why night owls have poorer health, but researchers have a couple of theories, Knutson said. In the mean time, society could play a role in catering to a person's morning or evening preferences. The study is published in the journal Chronobiology International.

Night owls have higher risk of early death than'morning larks. Credit
Night owls have higher risk of early death than'morning larks. Credit

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. Do things earlier and be less of an evening person as much as you can.

"These findings suggest the need for researching interventions aimed at allowing evening types greater working flexibility", the researchers said. Teenagers tend to naturally have later chronotypes (body clocks shift throughout life and most teens are night owls), and a growing body of research has shown that shifting school start times later improves school performance.

"It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for the body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use".

Knutson suggests that night owls aren't doomed.

"Further, increased eveningness was significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality over 6.5 years", the study said.

One way to shift your behavior is to make sure you are exposed to light early in the morning but not at night, Knutson said. 35 percent as "more a morning person than an evening person", 28 percent as "more an evening than morning person" and 9 percent as "definitely an evening person".