Night owls and early death rates

People who stay up late have a higher risk of dying sooner than those who function best in the morning, according to a new study by USA and United Kingdom scientists.

In conclusion, the study concluded that late risers and "night owls" present increased risks of premature death by 10%.

The participants had defined themselves as either "definitely a morning person" (27 per cent), "more a morning person than evening person" (35 per cent), "more an evening than a morning person" (28 per cent), or "definitely an evening person" (nine per cent).

Over the course of the study, 10,534 of the 433,000-plus participants died and researchers noted that those who identified as "evening people" in the study had a 10 percent higher mortality rate. The study posits, "Mortality risk in evening types may be due to behavioral, 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".

The lead author of the study, Kristen Knutson, is an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. This isn't the first study to have found an association between late bedtimes and poorer health; other studies have linked being a night owl to a greater risk of depression, drug use and negative lifestyle behaviors like eating an unhealthy, fatty diet.

She added, "Previous work has shown that people who are evening types - are night owls - tend to have worse health profiles, including things like diabetes and heart disease. 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". This means that those that went to bed later at night were still reporting the same overall amount of sleep as those going to bed early. "Part of it you don't have any control over and part of it you might".

The study did not specify the reason why night owls die, but they did find how definitely evening types are twice as likely to report psychological issues than definitely morning types. Also, trying to keep a regular bedtime and not let oneself drift to later bedtimes can also help. The big question is whether numerous negative health effects associated with night owl behavior are simply due to the fact that the world is more set up for morning types, and those night behaviors simply clash with social realities and work shifts. "Some people may be better suited to night shifts". "They shouldnt be forced to get up for an 8 a.m. shift".

Researchers say that the ongoing stress of operating in a 9-5 society was having a huge impact on millions and could be shortening their lives.

  • Delores Daniels