Night owls face risk of dying early: study

People who are proud of being night owls should better change their lifestyle. The chances of dying young are more among them than early birds, researchers say. A 6.5-year study covering more than 430,000 people aged 38-73 in Britain found that night owls had a 10% higher risk of dying than ‘larks’. Malcolm van Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey who co-authored the study, has this advice to night owls: start work early and finish it later in the day. The participants in the study defined themselves as ‘definitely a morning person’ (27%), ‘more a morning person than evening person’ (35%), ‘more an evening than a morning person’ (28%), or ‘definitely an evening person’ (9%). Deaths in the group (over 10,500) were documented for six-and-a-half years. The  study found that night owl group had a 10% higher risk of dying than those in the extreme early-morning group. Night owls were more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, diabetes, and stomach and breathing troubles. They were also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and coffee, and use illegal drugs. The higher risk may be because night owls have an internal biological clock that does not match their external environment, said fellow author Kristen Knutson of the Northwestern University in Chicago.

 Internal clocks linked to health

Our bodies have their own internal time-keeping system, or clock. This clock would keep running even if a person is moved to a cave. It plays an important role in health by preparing the body to bedtimes, wake times, breakfast etc. Health issues arise due to a misalignment between a person’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and the socially imposed timing of work and other activities. The researchers called for more studies on whether night owls can adjust their circadian rhythms so that they become morning people, and whether such a change would minimise health risks. The study was published on Wednesday (April 11) in the journal Chronobiology International.