Health

Night owls and early death rates

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Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

Results showed that night owls have a 10 percent greater risk of dying than their "counterparts" who are early risers. According to a study, if you are a "night owl", or like to stay up late and have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, you are at a higher risk of dying sooner than morning "larks", people who have a natural preference for going to bed early and rising with the Sun. "We think the problem is really when the night owl tries to live in a morning-lark world", study author Kristen Knutson of Northwestern University tells the Los Angeles Times.

"The problem may be that a night owl is trying to live in a morning lark world", Knutson said. On the other hand, owls may have a body clock that fails to match their external environment. "Mortality risk in evening types may be due to behavioural, psychological and physiological risk factors, many of which may be attributable to chronic misalignment between internal physiological timing and externally imposed timing of work and social activities".

The researchers behind the study took a look at 504,642 people aged between 37 and 73 from the UK Biobank cohort.

During the study, around 10,000 of the 433,268 participants died.

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

Knutson said night owls could improve their chances of living longer by ensuring their were exposed to light early in the morning but not at night.

Once you've managed to gradually advance your bedtime, you must keep to a regular sleeping schedule and avoid drifting back into your night owl habits, Knutson said.

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

"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". "Part of it you don't have any control over and part of it you might", she added.

"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". "That not only makes it hard to fall asleep; it's also a signal to your clock to start being later again".

The study also found that night owls have a higher risk for a variety of physical and mental ailments.

Although the researchers controlled for ethnicity, almost 94% of the participants identified as Caucasian, meaning the results may not be generalizable to other demographics, according to Zeitzer. The researchers could have explored what time people went to bed.

It might be that being up late gives people more opportunity to engage in less healthy behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, snacking or taking drugs, 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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