Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

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“Night owls” — people who like to stay up late and have trouble dragging themselves out of bed in the morning — have a higher risk of dying sooner than “larks,” people who have a natural preference for going to bed early and rise with the sun, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom (UK).

The study, on nearly half a million participants in the UK Biobank Study, found owls have a 10 percent higher risk of dying than larks. In the study sample, 50,000 people were more likely to die in the 6½ -year period sampled.

Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies.”

Kristen Knutson
Associate professor of neurology

“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 of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Previous studies in this field have focused on the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first to look at mortality risk.

The study was published April 12 in the journal Chronobiology International.

The scientists adjusted for the expected health problems in owls and still found the 10 percent higher risk of death.

“This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored,” said Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey. “We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. 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.”

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