Night owls have 10% higher mortality risk, study says

A person pressing snooze on their alarm clock

Night owls may be at higher risk of an early death Kohei Hara Getty

New research by the University of Surrey and Northwestern University in the USA found that people who naturally stay up late were 10pc more likely to die within the six-and-a-half-year study period compared to those who preferred the morning.

People who describe themselves as an "evening person" may be at higher risk of poor health compared to morning types. The results showed that by the end of 6 ½ years, the definite evening types were about 10 percent more likely to have died than the definite morning types, Knutson said.

The six-and-a-half-year study recorded just over 10,500 deaths among the studied.

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

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Those who slept later at night are more likely to have diabetes, neurological disorders, psychological disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders, says Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and a lead author on the study. A 2017 study claims those tendencies could be linked to your genes.

It's probably because living in a world geared for early starts is throwing off the circadian rhythms of the night owls, the researchers said.

The data was taken from the U.K. Biobank - a large pool of data created to identify risk factors of major diseases - and published in the Chronobiology International journal. These include cardiovascular disease, higher rates of obesity and smoking, psychiatric disorders, and an overall 10% increased risk for death, according to a study newly published in the journal Chronobiology International.

However, there are some things society can change to take some of the pressure off night owls. Zeitzer, who was not involved in this study, said that "the findings for the mortality actually weren't as robust as I would have hoped".

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Around 50,000 died young over the study period due to the stress of being forced up early.

"The mismatch between their internal biological clock and their behavior and environment is problematic, especially in the long run", Knutson said. As part of a detailed questionnaire, they were asked whether they tended to be night owls or morning larks. "Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep - all of these things are important, and maybe particularly so for night owls".

The researchers drew on data from the UK Biobank, a storehouse of medical and genetic information provided by 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 from across the UK.

But regardless of the reason for the link, people may have some control over whether they are morning or evening people, the researchers said. "There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself".

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