Late Risers May Die Sooner, Study Finds

A person pressing snooze on their alarm clock

Night owls may be at higher risk of an early death Kohei Hara Getty

Night owls run a 10% higher risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, psychological abnormalities and an increased possibility of dying. "Part of it you dont have any control over and part of it you might".

They found those who prefer late nights were significantly more likely to have a shorter lifespan than early birds. "And we have to remember that even a small additional risk is multiplied by more than 1.3 billion people who experience this shift every year".

But she said: "You're not doomed". "Approximately, 27 percent identified as definite morning types, 35 percent as moderate morning types, 28 percent as moderate evening types and 9 percent as definite evening types", they wrote.

Researchers pulled data from the massive U.K. Biobank study, that between 2006 and 2010 looked at risk factors of major diseases for adults between the ages of 37 and 73.

One way to shift the behaviour is to ensure the exposure to light early in the morning but not at night, Knutson said. The researchers found that those people who identified as "definite evening types" at the beginning of the study had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared with "definite morning types".

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"It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", Knutson said. 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.

"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", Knutson said. "That not only makes it hard to fall asleep; it's also a signal to your clock to start being later again". In the study, the researchers say that estimates are that between 21% and 52% of what determines chronotype has genetic roots. 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.

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.

"It's not intrinsically chronotype that's bad; it's chronotype plus our society ... and not all societies are the same", Zeitzer added. "They want to be up late but they have to be up early for work and so the time that they're doing things, like waking up or eating, is not at the correct time for them". Their work, done over decades, helps explain how life adapts to the 24-hour cycle of day, and also how diseases such as cancer arise in the cells.

Confirmed night owls must make sure to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, she said.

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