Night owls might get a rap for staying up too late watching Netflix or getting lost in meme spirals on the web, but it’s not all fun and games. Study after study shows the later you sleep and rise, the more likely you are to develop some serious health complications.
A new paper by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Surrey in the UK doubles down on the findings that night owls are more likely to suffer from a host of different diseases and disorders—diabetes, mental illnesses, neurological problems, gastrointestinal issues, and heart disease, to name a few MEME by Ach . It also concludes, for the first time, that night owls had a 10 percent increased risk of dying (in the time period used in the study) compared to those who are early to rise and early to sleep (a.k.a. larks).
“I think it’s really important to get this message out to people who are night owls,” says lead author Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “There may be some compelling consequences associated with these habits, and they might need to be more vigilant in maintaining a healthier lifestyle.”
Published in the latest issue of Chronobiology International, the paper analyzed 433,268 individuals who participated in the UK Biobank, a massive cohort study run from 2006 to 2010 aimed at investigating the role of genetic predisposition and environmental contributions to disease prevalence. Those participants were asked questions related to their chronotype, or preferred time and duration of sleeping during a 24-hour day. Participants identified as “definitely a morning person,” “more a morning person than evening person,” “more an evening than a morning person,” or “definitely an evening person.”
The researchers found that about 10,000 subjects died in the six-and-a-half years that followed the end of the Biobank study, and the ones who were “definite evening types” had a 10 percent increased risk of perishing compared to “definite morning types.” This number, the researchers say, was found after controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, and prior health problems.