Are You a Night Owl? It Could be Killing You

Do you know someone who loves the night? Maybe the sweet silence of 3 a.m. is appealing to them. Perhaps they work nights or study late. A Korean study found a causal relationship between being a night owl and metabolic disorders. In addition, a recent study conducted by the UK Biobank sought to determine whether there could be a connection between sleeping schedules and mortality rates, and the results might be compelling enough to make people rethink bedtime.

Sleeping by “Chronotype”

The study used a questionnaire to determine which of four sleep categories (or chronotypes) participants fell into: “definite morning” people, “moderate morning” people, “definite evening” people, or “moderate evening” people.

Of the groups, those who self-identified as “definite evening” people (night owls) appeared to be at highest risk of developing a number of different health issues, including being at a 10% higher risk for early death than people who go to bed at a more normal time and are early risers. In addition, mental health disorders, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic disorders, neurological disorders, and respiratory disorders were also found to be more common in night owls than in other groups.

“Moderate evening” people were found to be at a relatively increased risk for health issues, albeit lower than that of their night owl counterparts. Some of these related health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, could increase a person’s overall risk of death.

Cause or Effect?

Researchers accounted for other variables that could affect health and lifespan, such as smoking, weight, sex, age, and socioeconomic status, leaving chronotype itself as a potentially important factor. However, the exact nature of this relationship is still up for debate. While some believe "definite evening" people may face increased health risks due to simply being awake when they should be sleeping, others attribute it to the stress put on the body from trying to adapt to “normal” sleep schedules.

Many insist there are clear genetic components to chronotypes, so that some people are naturally early birds and some are naturally night owls. Some researchers believe it’s possible to retrain a person’s chronotype, whereas others believe it is, for the most part, genetically fixed. Most agree, however, that getting regular, scheduled sleep is important above all else.


10/28/2018 7:00:00 AM
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Bull is right. I was born late in the evening and I have always been a night owl. I think that is why. This is just someones idea to get everyone in line. I am 70 years old and have none of those ailments listed. I enjoy the quiet of the early morning. I am retired so it doesn't matter what time I get up in the morning...or afternoon. I have never felt my best early in the morning. It takes to about 3pm for me to be fully awake and feel alive. I love my life and my sleeping pattern just like it is. I get my rest and my husband get his quiet mornings. It's a win win in my book.
Posted by Linda
Bull. I have been a true night owl all my life. Even in school I was sleepy, especially in the afternoon and did my best homework at night. I tried working days for three years and was tired all of the time and put on a lot of weight. I spent the rest of my working career as a nurse on the midnight shift and felt much better, lost weight, was active and usually slept 7 1/2 hours from mid afternoon to when I had to get up to go to work. I am retired now and still keep a night owl schedule though slightly different, I go to be around 4 am and get up between 11 and 12 noon. I feel great and am still healthy and keeping my mind active by taking classes at the local university. According to some doctors I have a alternate circadian rhythm which makes my schedule fine for me.
Posted by Tlyna
Well they have obviously studied this so in these cases, no. I have chronic pain. I rise at 4am. 😁
Posted by Mary
Nothing is ever just one thing. There are many physiological causes for insomnia.
Posted by Sophie
I'm a night owl, but I sleep 8 hours when I go to sleep. Is that ok?
Posted by HDJ
Of course I'm up all night. I'm in pain. This is the chicken or the egg. Is my being awake causing my illnesses or am I awake because of the pain that they cause? Study that and get back to those of us with chronic pain who would love to continue out at 10:00.
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