Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

People who fall asleep late and have problems waking up in the morning are more exposed to premature death in comparison to those who get to bed early and get up early, according to a British study.

The researchers did not look at the specific causes of death, but they think that night owls are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancer types such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

"This is just one piece of the puzzle", said Jamie Zeitzer, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences (sleep medicine) at the Stanford School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

The study, published in the journal Chronobiology International, found higher rates of diabetes, mental disorders and neurological conditions among night owls. "It's not going work", Knutson said".

The researchers relied on data from the UK Biobank - a large prospective cohort study conducted between 2006 and 2010 that investigated risk factors for major diseases in men and women 37 to 73 years of age. But overall, the tendency to feel more alert and alive in the morning or evening remains, no matter how much people try to change it. Though the study didn't examine the cause of this correlation, researchers suspect the problem doesn't actually have to do with sleeping in, specifically.

The participants had defined themselves as either "definitely a morning person" (27 percent), "more a morning person than evening person" (35 percent), "more an evening than a morning person" (28 percent), or "definitely an evening person" (nine percent).

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. "And that was even after we took into account things like existing health problems", Knutson told NBC News.

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Of the 433,268 participants, approximately 10,000 died during the study's 6½-year followup period. But the researchers had some ideas.

Dr Kristen Knutson from Northwestern University in Chicago, said: 'Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies.

The authors believe that "people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", said Knutson. "You can't start drifting later on weekends or vacations because you'll be back into night owl habits", she warns.

The night owls studied were also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and coffee plus use illegal drugs. Perhaps employers could adjust schedules within reason to accommodate evening people.

But the team has previously shown that whether someone is an owl or a lark is half genetic and half environment, meaning there may be ways to keep body clock issues under control.

One way to shift the behaviour is to ensure the exposure to light early in the morning but not at night, Knutson said.

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