Health Care

Call for flexible work as 'night owls' face higher death risk

Call for flexible work as 'night owls' face higher death risk

For the new study, which was published in the journal Chronobiology International on April 11, researchers tracked around 433,000 individuals over a period of 6.5 years, and found that people who identified themselves as "definitive evening type" had 10 percent higher risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who identified themselves as "definite morning types". "Make work shifts match peoples" chronotypes.

Evening people were at greater risk for certain health conditions, including diabetes, psychological disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders and respiratory conditions, the study found.

At the beginning of the study period, participants were asked whether they considered themselves to be morning people or evening people, or whether they felt they fell somewhere in between those two groups. "Some people may be better suited to night shifts", Knutson added. As a result, the mismatch between their body clock and their external world impacts their health in the long run, particularly if they have irregular schedule. "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".

"You're not doomed", Knutson said.

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.

"What we think might be happening is, there's a problem for the night owl who's trying to live in the morning lark world", Knutson said.

Professor Knutson said: '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. Getting too little sleep is also known to have negative health effects, but the new study found little difference between the self-reported sleep of morning people and that of evening people, the researchers said.

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"They shouldn't be forced to get up for an 8am shift".

The researchers' next project is to see if night owls are able to shift their body clocks to adapt to an earlier schedule - to see if there are improvements in blood pressure and overall heatlh.

Although the reasons for their increased mortality remain unclear, she said, "Night owls should know that there may be some health consequences".

"There are already reports of higher incidence of heart attacks following the switch to summer time", says von Schantz.

In conclusion, the study concluded that late risers and "night owls" present increased risks of premature death by 10%.

The study's co-authors Malcolm van Schantz of the University of Surrey and Kristen Knutson of the Northwestern University in Chicago, gathered information from people aged between 38-73 from a public database.