Bad news for night owls.
As if it weren’t already enough that studies have shown that they’re more likely to suffer from obesity, insomnia, anxiety, depression, ADHD, substance abuse, and mental disorders than their early bird counterparts—due in large part to social jetlag—new research says they’re also more likely to die younger.
The U.K. study, published in Chronobiology International, analyzed the data of 433,268 people, aged 38 to 73. Approximately 27% identified as definite morning types, 35% as moderate morning types, 28% as moderate evening types and 9% as definite evening types. Researchers observed their health over an average of six and a half years, using death certificates to ascertain their cause of death.
What they found was that, controlling for other factors such as age, sex, smoking habits, and so on, those who self-identified as “definite evening” types has a 10% increased risk of dying from any cause.
The risk of respiratory disease for night owls was 23 percent higher than in early birds. Night owls were also twice as likely to suffer from a psychological disorder, 22 percent more likely to have gastrointestinal disease, and 30 percent more likely to have diabetes.
The results are sobering for night owls, but they make sense. The study notes that being a “definite evening type” has been associated with less healthy diets, including greater proportion of fat intake, which could increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases. Being an evening type has also been associated with depression and mood disorders, particularly in those 50 years or older. Unsurprisingly, evening types are also more likely to take psychoactive drugs and engage in self-destructive habits. All of this is bad news for longevity, which research has shown requires a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle.
While lead author Kristen L. Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University, told The New York Times that one does not choose to be a night owl or morning person—as one’s chronotype is partially genetic—it is possible for night owls to become more like morning people by doing things like turning off all electronics an hour before bed and tucking in earlier.
So, if you’re a night owl concerned with the length of your lifespan, why not give clean sleeping a try?
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