Late to Bed, Early to Die? Night Owls May Die Sooner

A person pressing snooze on their alarm clock

People who sleep late and have difficulty waking up in the morning are more likely to die prematurely compared with early risers, findings of a new study have revealed.

Scientists who studied a population of almost half a million Britons found that over a six-year period, night owls had a ten per cent greater risk of death than morning larks.

Deaths in the sample were tracked up to six and half years later - and then it was calculated what type of person was most likely to die.

"Understanding the link between chronotype and mortality could lead to the development of additional behavioural strategies to mitigate risk associated with being an evening type".

The study will be published April 12 in the journal Chronobiology International.

The night owl group, the team found, had a 10-percent higher risk of dying than those in the extreme early-morning group.

Prof Malcolm von Schantz, at the Guildford university, said: "This is a public health issue". "We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical", von Schantz added.

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"Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep - all of these things are important, and maybe particularly so for night owls". "There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviors related to being up late in the dark by yourself".

In the new study, scientists found owls had higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders and neurological disorders?

The study authors had earlier concluded that genetics and environment play approximately equal roles in whether we are a morning or a night type, or somewhere in between. "Part of it you don't have any control over and part of it you might".

Although the reasons for their increased mortality remain unclear, she said, "Night owls should know that there may be some health consequences". Or perhaps there is some way to help night owls develop morning-lark habits that could produce some health benefits. "If you looked in Spain, where people are much later in terms of when they go to work, my guess is that the health consequences are probably less than in the United Kingdom".

"If we can recognize these chronotypes are‚ in part‚ genetically determined and not just a character flaw‚ jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls‚" she said. "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.

Some strategies known to help people trying to switch to an earlier schedule include gradually advancing your bedtime and avoiding the use of technology at night, according to Knutson.

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