A study published in Chronobiology International based on 433,268 people in the United Kingdom in a span of six years revealed “definite evening types,” often referred to as night owls, are 10 percent most likely to die early than “definite morning types.”
Why Night Owls Are More Likely To Die Early
As reported by CNN, the lead author of the study, Kristen Knutson, a neurology professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern, explained night owls were also at a greater risk of having psychological, gastrointestinal, neurological, and respiratory disorders, and diabetes. She also explained why this could be the case.
“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. 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.”
As Knutson explains, there were already studies revealing night owls are more likely to have worse health profiles and are at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes. However, this is the first study to connect evening types to mortality.
The researchers relied on information provided by the UK Biobank, a cohort study between 2006 and 2010, which aim to identify the risk factors for women between the age of 37 and 73. The study also looked into the circadian rhythm of the individual and they were asked to identify themselves in four categories: definitely an evening person, more of an evening person than a morning person, more of a morning person than an evening person, and definitely a morning person.
The study had a six and a half year follow-up period, and during that time 10,000 people passed away. After adjusting for factors such as sleep duration, body mass index, sex, ethnicity, age, and smoking status, researchers concluded that the risk of dying for those who claimed to be night owls or “definitely evening times” were higher by 10 percent compared to “definitely a morning type.”
The study did not specify the reason why night owls die, but they did find how definitely evening types are twice as likely to report psychological issues than definitely morning types.
In a commentary, Jamie Zeitzer of the Stanford School of Medicine noted how this is just a piece of the puzzle. He added that he expected a closer look at the chronotype, not just their alignment. The researchers could have explored what time people went to bed.
Zeitzer found the link between the night owls and psychological issue.
“And it would definitely take some follow-up to see what that means. Is that depression? Is that anxiety? Are there specific psychological phenomena that are more or less related to chronotype, especially the disparity between your chronotype preferred timing and the actual timing of sleep?”
This is not the first time that the lifestyle of night owls has been heavily criticized for being unhealthy. Being a night owl, as noted by the study author, is partly genetic and partly influenced by environmental factors, but it will take a major lifestyle change to become a definitely evening type to a more of an evening type or better yet a morning person.