Night owls – people who like to stay up late – are more likely to die sooner than early birds, who rise earlier, according to a new study.
Are you a morning or night person? It’s a question that everyone has been asked and, one in which, we all know the answer to.
Some of us are up like a lark at the crack of dawn, while others are still watching The Good Place on Netflix at midnight.
However, as much as we’ve always happily categorised these two types of people without much thought, it now appears that being a night owl is actually detrimental to your health.
Scientists who studied a population of nearly half a million Britons found that over a six-year period, owls had a 10% greater risk of death than early birds.
The study, which involved people aged between 38 and 73, found higher rates of mental health disorders, diabetes and neurological conditions among night owls.
“If we can recognise these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls,” says Dr Kristen Knutson, a member of the team from Northwestern University in Chicago.
The researchers are now calling on employers to consider changing current work schedules to better suit night owls.
“They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8 a.m. shift. Make work shifts match peoples’ chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.”
“This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored,” says 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.”
However, genetics and the environment do play a role in determining whether you’re more of a morning or night person. The good news is, this means that you can do something about it.
“You’re not doomed,” adds Dr Knutson. “Part of it you don’t have any control over and part of it you might.”
Scientists have suggested that night owls expose themselves to light early in the morning (not at night), keep to a bedtime routine and carry out tasks earlier in the day.
Time to have a chat with your current employer?