A research was conducted in UK on 50,000 individuals and the subjects were studied for 6.5 years. The results of the research tell us that night owls which is a term normally used for people who go to sleep late at night and then wake up late the next morning are at a 10% higher risk of dying early. It looks like that we live in a world that is engineered for people who wake up early in the morning. Another factor that makes thing more difficult for night owls is the time when clocks are pushed an hour forward in spring.
‘Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies.’ Said Kristen Knutson who is an associate professor of neurology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The studies that were conducted prior to this it was established that people who stay up late end up having an adverse effect on their heart as well as metabolism. But even when these adverse health effects were adjusted the risk of dying early was still 10% higher than normal people.
‘This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored. 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.’ Said Malcolm von Schantz who is Professor of Chronobiology at the University of Surrey.
He further continued ‘It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment. 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 behaviors related to being up late in the dark by yourself.’
There were 433,268 participants in this research and they were aged from 38 to 73 years. The researches asked them to associate themselves with one category among the four. These categories were
- Definite morning type
- Moderate morning type
- Moderate evening type
- Definite evening type
After that the researches tracked the rate of deaths in their sample in a period of 6.5 years and concluded that people who are night owls are at a higher risk of dying.
According to professor Knutson there are steps that we can do reduce this percentage such as giving people who consider themselves definite evening type more flexible working hours.
According to professor Knutson ‘If we can recognize these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls. They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match peoples’ chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.’
In the next phase of the project the researches will check if the night owls can change their biological clock in such a way that they become early birds. They will also check the effects of this change on their health.
It has been noticed that adjusting to day light saving is more difficult for night owls as compared to people who are accustomed to getting up early. Professor von Schantz stated that day light saving has been seen to have negative health impacts on the body. He further stated ‘There are already reports of higher incidence of heart attacks following the switch to summer time. And we have to remember that even a small additional risk is multiplied by more than 1.3 billion people who experience this shift every year. I think we need to seriously consider whether the suggested benefits outweigh these risks.’