‘Night owls’ – people who stay up late and struggle to get out of bed in the morning – are more likely to die younger than ‘morning larks’.
New research by the University of Surrey and Northwestern University in the US found that people who naturally stay up late were 10pc more likely to die within the six-and-a-half-year study period compared to those who preferred the morning.
Researchers say that the ongoing stress of operating in a 9-5 society was having a huge impact on millions and could be shortening their lives. “This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored,” said Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey.
“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.”
The research involved nearly 500,000 people, aged between 38 and 73, and found that around 9pc considered themselves evening people, while 27pc identified as morning types. Previous studies in this field have focused on the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this was the first to look at mortality risk.
“Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies,” said co-lead author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University near Chicago.
“It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment,” said Dr Knutson. “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.”
Scientists found owls had higher rates of diabetes, psychological and neuro-logical disorders. But the team has shown that whether someone is an owl or a lark is half genetic and half environment, meaning there may be ways to keep body clock issues under control.
“You’re not doomed,” added Dr Knutson. “Part of it you don’t have any control over and part of it you might.” The team says night owls can help themselves by trying to become exposed to light early in the morning. Keeping regular bedtimes, a healthy lifestyle and trying to do tasks earlier in the day can help to reset circadian rhythms. (© Daily Telegraph, London)