Night owls and early death rates


The findings, based on a study of almost half a million participants, showed that night owls suffer from more diseases and disorders than morning larks: They have a 10%higher risk of dying than larks.

"We think the problem is really when the night owl tries to live in a morning-lark world", Knutson said.

The scientists adjusted for the expected health problems in owls and still found the 10 percent higher risk of death. Malcolm von Schantz, study co-author and professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, said in a statement that his research is further proof that "this is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored".

Even more, passing towards the daylight saving time coincides with a higher incidence of heart attacks and for the late risers is more hard to adapt to the change, say the researchers.

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The authors believe that "people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", said Knutson.

But the study should still be a wake-up call for night owls, who may want to take extra efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, she said.

Owls were also twice as likely to have psychological disorders and have a third greater chance of diabetes.

Knutson said that "you're not doomed". "Part of it you don't have any control over and part of it you might", she added.

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A combination of genetics and environment can play a role in whether someone is a morning or night person, according to the researchers, and a person's preference for staying up late could be due to a variety of reasons. Advice to improve sleep patterns includes avoiding bright light in the evenings, keeping a regular bedtime and having dinner earlier.

"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.

"They shouldn't be forced to get up for an 8am shift".

"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". These night owls also were found to have a higher risk of developing diabetes, and psychological and neurological disorders.

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In the future, the researchers say they hope to test an "intervention with owls" to see if this group can successfully shift their body clocks to an earlier schedule. But even after accounting for these conditions, the study still found that evening people had a slightly higher risk of dying during the study period, compared with morning people. As part of the Biobank research, people were asked to either identify as a morning or evening person from four options. They then tracked deaths among these participants up to six and half years later.