Night Owls May Be More Likely to Die, Get Diabetes

People who stay up late may have an increased risk of mortality and developing certain health problems, new research says.

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  • People who routinely stay up late may have a greater risk of mortality, according to new research
  • The study tracked 433,268 adults over an average of six-and-a-half years
  • Those who identified as "definite evening types" were 10 percent more likely to die than their early bird counterparts

    Bad news, night people: If you routinely stay up late, you may be more likely to die, get diabetes, or develop a psychological illness.

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    A study published in the journal Chronobiology International found that people who identify as “definite evening types” are more susceptible to several health problems, including diabetes, neurological disorders, psychological illness, and a higher risk of mortality than those who identify as “definite morning types.”

    Researchers tracked 433,268 adults in the United Kingdom over an average of six-and-a-half years. The participants were asked to put themselves into one of four categories: “definitely a morning person”; “more a morning person than evening person”; “more an evening than a morning person”; or “definitely an evening person.” Over the course of the study, just over 10,000 participants died, and researchers found that those who identified as “definite evening types” were 10 percent more likely to die than their sunrise-loving counterparts.

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    “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,” Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study, said in a press release, “But this is really the first study to look at mortality.”

    It wasn’t just an increased risk of dying that was more prevalent among night owls. Researchers also found that the “definite evening types” were nearly twice as likely to indicate they had some sort of psychological illness than the “definite morning types.”

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    “What we think might be happening is, there’s a problem for the night owl who’s trying to live in the morning lark world,” Knutson said. “This mismatch between their internal clock and their external world could lead to problems for their health over the long run, especially if their schedule is irregular.” Makes sense, considering how much messing with your circadian rhythm messes with your health.

    According to the study, the night owls were also more likely to have diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory disorders. (Regularly staying up late can also cause unwanted weight gain. That early morning life is starting to sound better by the second, isn’t it?)

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    It should be noted that this study was done on a 94-percent-Caucasian population, so there is still much more research to be done to fully understand the differences between preferred sleep times.

    How to Hack Your Sleep Schedule

    Are you a night owl who wants to shake up their sleep cycle in the name of a longer, healthier life? Try starting small, focusing on getting to bed 30 minutes earlier and gradually adding time. (If you need help falling asleep, check out these helpful tips.)

    However, if you believe you’re forever destined to be an evening person — whether it’s your work schedule or something else difficult to change — Knutson recommends using these findings as a wake-up call to pay extra attention to your health.

    “An important message here is for night owls to realize that they have these potential health problems and therefore need to be more vigilant about maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Knutson said. “Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep — all of these things are important, and maybe particularly so for night owls."

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