The daily cycles of our body's systems, our chronotype, is a very basic part of who we are and how we operate in the world. It affects our sleep cycles, moods and even sports performance. Whether it's at school or at the office, people who are late-night types, not really getting going until later in the day, seem to have a harder time than early birds do. These "night owls" are at greater risk for conditions like metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, compared to those “morning larks” who do most of their daily activities during daylight hours.
In fact, night owls have a higher risk of dying in general, according to a British study. “Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies,” researcher, Kristen Knutson, said in a statement.
Owls were 10 percent more likely to die of all causes compared to larks, even when other health risks were taken into account, the study found. Owls were also more likely than larks to have psychological disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders. The findings are based on data from over 430,000 people enrolled in the U.K. Biobank Study.
Being awake when most of the world around you is asleep can lead to problems.
“There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviors related to being alone in the dark by yourself,” said Knutson. Psychological stress that keeps you awake at night, eating at odd hours, not getting enough exercise, not getting enough sleep and possible drug or alcohol use can all cause health problems for night owls.
Owls do not need to resign themselves to poor health. You can shift your chronotype or, if being a night owl really does work for you, keep yourself healthy. As Knutson says, “You’re not doomed.” Expose yourself to light early in the morning and avoid light late at night. Recognize that the timing of your sleep matters. Try to keep a regular bedtime and sleep schedule.
Owls were 10 percent more likely to die of all causes compared to larks, even when other health risks were taken into account.
The study is published in Chronobiology International.