Night Owls Have Higher Risk of Early Death


The night owls studied were also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and coffee plus use illegal drugs.

Deaths in the group - just over 10,500 in total - were documented for six-and-a-half years. Three scientists who study the body's internal clock won the Nobel Prize in Medicine a year ago. 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". This is the first to look at mortality risk. According to a new study, which the journal Chronobiology International recently published, this might bring with it diabetes, psychological issues and most importantly, an increased risk of early death. Their risk for respiratory disease was 23 percent higher and for gastrointestinal disease 22 percent higher.

"'Night owls" trying to live in a "morning lark' world may have health consequences for their bodies", study co-author Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.

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"An important message here is for night owls to realize that they have these potential health problems and therefore need to be more vigilant about maintaining a healthy lifestyle", Knutson said.

"If you can recognise these (types) are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls", Knutson said. "Part of it you dont have any control over and part of it you might".

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".

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Knutson's study of almost a half million people found night owl habits foul up our internal clock. "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". "We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical", von Schantz added.

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. "They shouldn't be forced up for an 8am shift". One way to shift your behaviour is to make sure you are exposed to light early in the morning but not at night, Knutson said.

Professor von Schantz said pushing the clocks forward in countries that adopt daylight saving time - such as British Summer Time - has negative health effects.

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There wasn't much difference among people who fell in the middle. "I think we need to seriously consider whether the suggested benefits outweigh these risks".