When it comes to longevity, night owls are in trouble, study warns

Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

If you stay up late at nights and struggle to get out of bed in the mornings, you are much more likely to die young, a study has found.

After controlling for age and sex, smoking, body mass index, sleep duration and other variables, they found that compared with "definite morning" types, "definite evening" types had a 10 percent increased risk of dying from any cause. They sorted people by whether they were definite morning types (aka "morning larks"), definite evening types, moderate morning types or moderate evening types.

Researchers from Northwestern Medicine in Chicago and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom tracked nearly half a million adults ages 38 to 73 in the U.K. over an average of 6.5 years.

Night owls have greater risk of dying early than the morning larks likely due to the health impacts of living in the morning lark world.

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"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", Knutson said.

But the study should still be a wake-up call for night owls, who may want to take extra efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, she said. 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". 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. Getting too little sleep is also known to have negative health effects, but the new study found little difference between the self-reported sleep of morning people and that of evening people, the researchers said.

"The findings for the mortality actually weren't as robust as I would have hoped".

The study says that night owls are about twice as likely to develop a psych disorder, 30 percent more likely to have diabetes, 23 percent higher risk of respiratory diseases and 22 percent higher for gastrointestinal diseases.

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One way night owls could help themselves was to ensure they are exposed to light early in the morning, but not at night, according to Dr Knutson.

"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". Does this mean that evening type people are doomed? "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".

Prof Kristen Knutson, of Chicago's Northwestern University, also worked on the study.

"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".

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