Night owls more likely to die earlier than morning larks, says new research

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Night owls more likely to die earlier than morning larks, says new research
Night owls more likely to die earlier than morning larks, says new research

A new research into mortality rates has found night owls are more likely to die sooner than morning larks.

Whether it’s a late night Netflix binge-watching session (curse you 10 second warning!), or a mid-week drinking marathon with your friends, we’re all guilty of staying up into the wee hours and feeling like death in the morning.

But, be warned, because the first study into the death rates of night owls had found they’re more likely to die sooner than morning larks.

New study – published in the journal Chronobiology International – by the University of Surrey and Northwestern University in the US has found that people who naturally stay up late were 10 per cent more likely to die within the six and a half year study period compared to those who preferred the morning.

Scientists claim that the ongoing stress of living in a traditional 9-5 society is having a huge impact on millions of people and could be shortening their lives.

‘This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored,’ said Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey.

‘We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. 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 study involved nearly 500,000 Brits aged between 38 and 73 and found that around nine per cent considered themselves evening people, while 27 per cent identified as morning types.

If you extrapolate the data to the entire British population, this means that 5.8 million people are at greater risk of early death because they’re out of sync with the environment.

While there have been previous studies that have looked into the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, this is the first of its kind to look into mortality risks.

‘Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies,’ said co-lead author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine based in Chicago.

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

‘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. There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself.’

To make matters worse, scientists also found that late-night sleepers also have higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders and neurological disorders.

However, before you blame Netflix, the researchers have previously found that when it comes to being a night owl or morning lark, the reasons are half genetic and half environment. So, on a positive note, it means there are ways you can improve your nightly sleeping routines.

‘You’re not doomed,’ added Dr Knutson. ‘Part of it you don’t have any control over and part of it you might.’

The team advises night owls to try to expose themselves to light early in the morning, not at night, keep regular bedtimes, and doing tasks earlier in the day to help reset circadian rhythms.

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