Night owls die young in a world scheduled for early birds

Night Owls

The team says night owls can help themselves by trying to become exposed to light early in the morning.

The research, which involved almost half a million people, found that self-described "evening people" were 10 percent more likely to die over a 6.5-year period, compared with self-described morning people. Those who are "evening person" are more likely to suffer from diabetes, stomach and breathing troubles and psychological disorders.

Northwestern University's Kristen Knutson, a fellow author, warned that night owls trying to live in a morning-lark world may (suffer) health consequences.

Previous analyzes have suggested higher rates of cardiovascular disease and metabolic pathologies such as diabetes but this new study is the first to explore mortality risk.

The researchers relied on information provided by the UK Biobank, a cohort study between 2006 and 2010, which aim to identify the risk factors for women between the age of 37 and 73. Those who identified themselves as evening people were 10 percent more likely to die during that period, the study found, even when accounting for sex, age, body mass index, how long they usually sleep and how much they smoke.

"Gradually try to advance your bedtime, which means going to bed a little earlier each night to move out of that night owl zone", Knutson said. Knutson said that "you're not doomed".

For the study, the researchers examined the link between an individual's natural inclination toward mornings or evenings and their risk of mortality.

For instance, stress, diet, isolation and drug and alcohol use are all known to contribute to ill-health and may be responsible for the different medical outcomes for morning and evening types.

"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", Knutson said.

The study tracked 433,268 subjects for six-and-a-half years. "That not only makes it hard to fall asleep; it's also a signal to your clock to start being later again". Many of these effects may be attributable to a misalignment between a person's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and the socially imposed timing of work and other activities, the researchers said.

"It's limited because of that", he said. The researchers could have explored what time people went to bed. "There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviors related to being up late in the dark by yourself".

Chronotype was also measured based on self-reports rather than objective measures, one of the study's main limitations, according to Knutson.

"An important message here is for night owls to realize that they have these potential health problems and therefore need to be more vigilant about maintaining a healthy lifestyle", Knutson added.

"If the body is expecting you to do something at a certain time like sleep or eat and you're doing it at the quote "wrong time" then your body's physiology may not be working as well", she explains.

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