Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Night Owls Are More At Risk For Health Problems, Early Death

Night Owls Are More At Risk For Health Problems, Early Death

Everything from work time to meal time occurs at a time that doesn't feel right for night owls, a state that researchers call "social jetlag".

The researchers looked at data from the UK Biobank, a large comprehensive study conducted from 2006 to 2010 that took a close look at risk factors for major diseases in men and women 37 to 73 years of age. They followed their health for an average of six-and-a-half years, tracking cause of death with death certificates.

The study was published April 12 in the journal Chronobiology International. Definitive night owls had nearly double the risk of suffering from psychological disorders, about a 30% increased risk for diabetes, a 25% increased risk for neurological conditions, 23% increased risk for gastrointestinal disorders, and a 22% increased risk for respiratory disorders. Their risk for respiratory disease was 23 percent higher and for gastrointestinal disease 22 percent higher.

Study co-author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University, said this likely happens because "night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies".

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

"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.

The switch to daylight savings or summer time is already known to be much more hard for evening types than for morning types.

"Part of it you don't have any control over", she said, "part of it you might".

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"If the body is expecting you to do something at a certain time like sleep or eat and you're doing it at the quote "wrong time" then your body's physiology may not be working as well", she explains. "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". "They shouldn't be forced up for an 8am shift". Many of these effects may be attributable to a misalignment between a person's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and the socially imposed timing of work and other activities, the researchers said.

"The next thing is what sort of intervention can we develop and test to see can we improve the health and well-being of people who are night owls", Knutson said.

Another factor that makes things rough on night owls is Daylight Saving Time, von Schantz said in the release. For example, some studies have shown that evening people are less likely to eat a healthy diet and more likely to use substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs, compared with morning people. "I think we need to seriously consider whether the suggested benefits outweigh these risks".

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