Not a morning person? Friends and family might have been nagging you to readjust your body clock for quite a while, but new research has confirmed that being a night owl could literally kill you.
A study conducted by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the UK has found that night owls (people who stay up late and struggle to get out of bed in the morning) are 10% more likely to die compared to “larks” (those who go to bed and wake up around sunrise).
The researchers examined data from 50,000 people over a 6.5-year period.
“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 at neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a press release.
Why are night owls more likely to die early?
The study found that night owls have higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders, and neurological disorders. The researchers posed a few theories as to why night owls have higher mortality rates.
It could be a mismatch between people’s internal biological clock and their external environment. For example, you could be a night owl and still have to force yourself to wake up early because of your job.
Night owls shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8 a.m. shift, researchers say.
“We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical,” said Malcolm von Schantz, professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey. “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.”
“There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself,” added Knutson. Some examples of these are:
- psychological stress
- eating at the wrong time for your body
- not exercising enough
- not sleeping enough
- drug or alcohol use
From night owl to morning lark: Is it possible to change?
Genetics and environment play a huge role in whether a person is a morning lark or night owl (or somewhere in the middle). But there are a few things you could do to shift your body clock, including:
- exposing yourself to light in the morning, but not at night
- keeping a regular bedtime (at a reasonable hour)
- have a routine with healthy behaviours
- making an effort to do things earlier
So if you’re a night owl, keep your chin up. You can still turn things around. Said Knutson, “You’re not doomed.”
Now that you know that night owls more likely to die, will you be changing your habits?
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