Night owls face health risks, study reveals

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Night owls face health risks, study reveals

Six-and-a-half years later, the participants who had identified themselves as "definite evening types" where 10 percent more likely to have died than the "definite morning types", even after adjusting for factors like age, existing health conditions, and time devoted to sleep each night.

Here's one big reason why being a morning person matters: Your risk of death may be lower.

"Greater eveningness has also been associated with depression and mood disorders, particularly in those 50 years or older", the researchers added. "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".

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

The study found that being a night owl was associated with a higher rate of a variety of disorders including diabetes, psychological, neurological, respiratory and gastrointestinal/abdominal problems. "And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time".

The researchers said society needs to recognize that making night owls start work early may not be good for their health. They initially assessed study participants between 2006 and 2010 and followed up on those people in an average of 6.5 years.

Some people naturally gravitate to staying up late, and while genetics do play a major role in establishing your body clock, some research is suggesting later bedtimes could be bad for your health.

Scientists found that "definite evening types" were around 10% more likely to die during the study period than "definite morning types".

"Whether or not you're a night owl is partly determined by your genes, which obviously you can't change, but it's not entirely a given", Knutson said.

For those who are night owls by choice or by circumstance - shift workers, for example - Knutson recommends focusing on other lifestyle choices that can influence their health.

"The switch to daylight saving time is perceived as more uncomfortable by evening types than morning types", the study said, "placing a further burden on individuals who are already struggling with when to start the working day".

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. "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".

"You're not doomed. Part of it you don't have any control over, and part of it you might."

Chronotype was also measured based on self-reports rather than objective measures, one of the study's main limitations, according to Knutson.

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.

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