Night Owls Have Higher Risk of Early Death

Night Owls Have Higher Risk of Early Death

Night Owls Have Higher Risk of Early Death

People who stay up late have a higher risk of dying sooner than those who function best in the morning, according to a new study by United States and UK scientists. The study, on almost half a million participants in the UK Biobank Study, found owls have a 10 percent higher risk of dying than larks. They asked participants whether they were a morning or evening person, and to what degree (moderate or definite).

Scientists working on data from the earlier study - called the UK Biobank - checked on the participants six-and-a-half years later and found that 10,000 of them had died.

"It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", hypothesizes co-lead author Kristen Knutson. There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself.

It's not a lack of sleep - both groups got about the same amount, Knutson and her colleague Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, reported in the journal Chronobiology International.

She added, "Previous work has shown that people who are evening types - are night owls - tend to have worse health profiles, including things like diabetes and heart disease".

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.

The authors believe that being an owl or a lark is a combination of genetics and environment, and so, "You're not doomed", according to Knutson. A lot of folks identify as night owls. "Part of it you dont have any control over and part of it you might". Also, trying to keep a regular bedtime and not let oneself drift to later bedtimes can also help.

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"If you can recognize these (types) are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls", Knutson said.

Research conducted on nearly half a million people suggest night owls are at risk of various diseases and early death.

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. Make work shifts match peoples' chronotypes.

Night-owl chronotypes don't operate the same way as the morning-lark chronotypes who are in charge of the world.

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.

Knutson and the team suggest several tips for night owls that could help optimize their health, including regimented bed times, better awareness of negative nighttime lifestyle behaviors (such as late-night eating), and trying to get exposure to as much morning and daylight as possible.

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