Are you an early bird or a night owl? One may live longer than the other concludes study

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According to research conducted by Northwestern Medicine in the US, and the University of Surrey in the UK, “night owls” have a 10 percent higher risk of dying sooner than “larks”. Out of almost half a million participants the study found 50,000 people were more likely to die over a six and a half year period. Part of the issue came from the night owls trying to fit into a routine that favours early risers.

Speaking in Science Daily, co-lead author and associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University, Kristen Knutson, explained: “Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies.

“It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment.

“It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use.

“There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself.”

In the study, which was published in Chronobiology International, scientists concluded that night owls had higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders and neurological disorders.

As part of the research, the team asked 433,268 participants, between the ages of 38 and 73 years, if they are a “definite morning type” a “moderate morning type” a “moderate evening type” or a “definite evening type.”

Of these, 27 percent identified as definite morning types, 35 percent as moderate morning types, 28 percent as moderate evening types and nine percent as definite evening types.

Deaths in the sample were tracked up to six and half years later.

Scientists adjusted for expected health problems in the night owls and still found a 10 percent higher risk of death.

Malcolm von Schantz, professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, said: “This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored.

“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.”

It is believed genetics and environment both play a part in what makes someone a night owl or a morning lark.”You’re not doomed,” Ms Knutson said.

“Part of it you don’t have any control over and part of it you might.”

She recommended trying to keep a regular bedtime and doing things earlier in the day, and she believed working hours should be adjusted accordingly.

“If we can recognize these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls,” she added.

“They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match peoples’ chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.”

It is also known that the changing of the clocks every year can be difficult for night owls.

Mr Von Schantz said: “There are already reports of higher incidence of heart attacks following the switch to summer time.

“And we have to remember that even a small additional risk is multiplied by more than 1.3 billion people who experience this shift every year.”

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