Staying up very late could lead to premature death

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Staying up late at night on a regular basis could increase your chances of dying early, which can be read in a new study recently published in Chronobiology international. 

Are you a night owl? A team of researchers have examined data from a huge study currently underway on the residents of the United Kingdom -the UK Biobank Study. This study aims to look at the role of genetic predisposition and environmental contributors in the prevalence of disease. Around half a million participants signed up for the study between 2006 and 2010, during which time each person’s health status was monitored. The researchers specifically examined over 400,000 volunteers aged from 38 to 73 years old, who responded to the question of whether they were more morning or night people. These people were then monitored for almost 6 years.

Over 10,000 of these people died over the course of the study. If we look at the mortality rates in relation to whether people were early birds or night owls, the “night people” were 10% more likely to die. They were also generally in poorer health. “Staying up late at night was associated with increased prevalence of a wide variety of diseases – including diabetes – and psychological, neurological and gastro-intestinal problems”, write the authors. Although the study did not address the question of “why”, other research has shown that night owls are more likely to eat poor diets, to act impulsively, to take drugs and alcohol, or to experience “social jet lag”. Surprisingly, the researchers did not find any significant difference in the duration of sleep between the different groups in the present analysis.

“Whe believe that it is partly due to our biological clocks, and that the problem is that night owls are forced to live in a world that doesn’t suit them. There is a mismatch between the internal clock and the external world, and this is a long term problem”, explains the main author of the study Kirsten Knutson, associate professor of neurology in the Feinberg School of Medicine in Northwestern (United States). “I think that it is really important to pass the message on to night people. There could be harmful consequences associated with these habits. People should be more vigilant and follow a healthier lifestyle”. 

The time mismatch the professor refers to is related to circadian rhythms, the biological process which regulates the body over the course of a 24 hour day. It determines sleep habits, energy levels, hormones and body temperature, among other important things. “There are ideal or optimal times for certain things to happen”, says Knutson. “Impinging on your sleep times can considerably disrupt your circadian rhythms, which can in turn have serious negative effects on your health.”