Study: Night owls have higher mortality risk than early birds

Health News

If you’re a night owl, it might be killing you according to a new study.

According to NBC News, people who burn the midnight oil are about 10% more likely to die over a given period than early birds. The findings are part of a British study of jeans and health that surveyed more than 4,000 people. The study asked participants if they identified as night owls or morning larks.

Researchers didn’t find much of a difference among people who identified somewhere in the middle between early risers and night owls, but the difference between the two extremes is notable.

“We found that night owls had a 10% increased risk of dying over about a six and a half year period,” Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC News.

Part of the problem is people who tend to be night owls still have to live in a world where schedules are more aligned with those of early risers.

“I think the problem arises because a night owl is trying to live in a morning lark world,” Knutson said. “If the body is expecting you to do something at a certain time like sleep or eat and you’re doing it at the quote ‘wrong’ time, then your body’s physiology may not be working as well.”

The study also found that night owls tend to make more unhealthy lifestyle choices, including eating fattier foods, drinking more alcohol and using recreational drugs more often than their counterparts. Night owls are also more exposed to artificial light. These factors can contribute to chronic health problems like diabetes and psychological issues.

“Greater eveningness has also been associated with depression and mood disorders, particularly in those 50 years or older,” the researchers added.

Knutson recommends that night owls try to gradually shift their schedule to go to bed a little earlier each night.

“Once you achieve that, you have to keep a regular schedule,” she said. “You can’t start drifting later on weekends or vacations because you’ll be back into night owl habits.”

If adjusting your bedtime doesn’t work, experts recommend getting into healthy habits like eating balanced meals, exercise and getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, no matter what time your bedtime is.

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