Are Night Owls At Higher Risk for Deadly Disease?

Young woman with insomnia cover her face with hand in bed

As part of the Biobank research, people were asked to either identify as a morning or evening person from four options.

Here's one big reason why being a morning person matters: Your risk of death may be lower. "But this is really the first study to look at mortality".

Out of those studied, 27 percent termed themselves as "definitely as morning person".

Out of the 10,500 deaths recorded in the participants, 2,127 had cardiovascular causes. Malcolm von Schantz, study co-author and professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, said in a statement that his research is further proof that "this is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored".

The higher risk may be because "people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", Knutson said. Those who are "evening person" are more likely to suffer from diabetes, stomach and breathing troubles and psychological disorders.

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. Being a night owl, as noted by the study author, is partly genetic and partly influenced by environmental factors, but it will take a major lifestyle change to become a definitely evening type to a more of an evening type or better yet a morning person. "It could be psychological stress, 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".

It was the 9 percent of people who said they were "definite" evening types who had the 10 percent increased risk of dying from something over the next six or so years.

Some bad news for those who like to stay up late.

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After controlling for factors like age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index, smoking status and sleep duration, the researchers discovered that those who identified as "definite evening types" saw a 10% increased risk of dying during the six and a half follow-up period, compared to those who said they were "definite morning types".

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

"You also need to really avoid light at night, including your smartphone and your tablets", she added. "It's strong in that it's a big sample of almost half a million people, but it is mainly Caucasians of Irish or English descent".

Knutson suggests that night owls aren't doomed.

Studies indicate that switches to and from daylight savings time can raise the immediate risk of death over the following days, and others show the health risks of shift work.

"You can't just suddenly go to bed three hours earlier tonight because it won't work", Knutson said.

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

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