Night owls" people who like to stay up late and have trouble dragging themselves out of bed in the morning have a higher risk of dying sooner than "larks," people who have a natural preference for going to bed early and rise with the sun, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom (UK).
The study, on nearly half a million participants in the UK Biobank Study, found owls have a 10 percent higher risk of dying than larks. In the study sample, 50,000 people were more likely to die in the 6½ -year period sampled.
Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies.
Previous studies in this field have focused on the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first to look at mortality risk.
The study will be published in the journal Chronobiology International. The scientists adjusted for the expected health problems in owls and still found the 10 percent higher risk of death.
Can owls become larks?
Genetics and environment play approximately equal roles in whether we are a morning or a night type, or somewhere in between, the authors have previously reported.
One way to shift your behavior is to make sure you are exposed to light early in the morning but not at night. Try to keep a regular bedtime and not let yourself drift to later bedtimes. Be regimented about adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors and recognize the timing of when you sleep matters. Do things earlier and be less of an evening person as much as you can.
For the study, researchers from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University examined the link between an individual's natural inclination toward mornings or evenings and their risk of mortality. They asked 433,268 participants, age 38 to 73 years, if they are a "definite morning type" a "moderate morning type" a "moderate evening type" or a "definite evening type." Deaths in the sample were tracked up to six and half years later.