‘Night owls’ who like to burn the midnight oil and have trouble getting out of bed in the morning could be at risk of dying sooner than those who go to bed early and rise with the sun.
That’s according to a study carried out on nearly half-a-million people by the University of Surrey and Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
The UK Biobank Study found that night owls have a 10% higher risk of dying than ‘larks’.
“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.
Previous studies in the field have focused on the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first to look at mortality risk.
“This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored,” said Malcolm von Schantz, 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.”
“It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment,” Knutson said.
“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.”
As part of the research, scientists found that night owls had higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders and neurological disorders.