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In a World Designed for Morning People, Night Owls May Die Earlier

14 April 2018
In a World Designed for Morning People, Night Owls May Die Earlier

It might be killing you, researchers reported Thursday.

People who stay up late have a higher risk of dying sooner than those who function best in the morning, according to a new study by USA and United Kingdom scientists.

He added that staying up late isn't inherently bad - it's only when you combine it with a society that pushes people to wake up early. While we can't be sure, many believe some people are wired that way.

Are you a night owl or a morning lark?

There wasn't much difference among people who fell in the middle.

The night owl group, the team found, had a 10% higher risk of dying than those in the extreme early-morning group. "And that was even after we took into account things like existing health problems", Knutson told NBC News.

"The problem may be that a night owl is trying to live in a morning lark world", Knutson said. "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".

Deaths in the group - just over 10,500 in total - were documented over the 61/2-year study period.

Night owls have higher risk of early death than'morning larks. Credit
Night owls have higher risk of early death than'morning larks. Credit

There could be physiological consequences to having a sleep schedule that doesn't match your internal clock, the researchers said. It's linked to breast cancer and other types of cancers, as well as diabetes and sleep disruption.

Previous studies support this theory, said Dr. Andrew Varga, an assistant professor of sleep medicine with Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

Knutson and Von Schantz looked at how people answered the early bird question. In order for the researchers to establish natural circadian rhythm - body clock - they were asked to identify as "definitely a morning person", "more a morning person than evening person", "more an evening than a morning person" or "definitely an evening person". They then tracked deaths among these participants up to six and half years later.

There's probably a variety of evolutionary reasons for a preference for night to exist, but many of these needs may not correspond with the demands of the modern industrial world.

The researchers also called for more studies on whether night owls can adjust their circadian rhythms so that they become morning people, and whether such an adjustment would lower those individuals' risk of health problems.

The volunteers involved in the study were self-characterized either as "definite morning type" (27%), "moderate morning type" (35%), "moderate evening type" (28%) or "definite evening type" (9%).

Dr Knutson said that 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 him, "night owls" should benefit from greater flexibility in the job so that they can start and finish their work later. 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.