A new study finds that night owls have an increased risk of early death compared to early birds. What are some of the other risks that night owls are facing, and is there a way to turn them into early birds?
Night Owls More At Risk Of Early Death?
A recent study might have gotten many night owls worried for their young lives, as researchers concluded that night owls are actually at risk of premature death. By tracking over 400,000 individuals for six and a half years, the researchers found that the "definitive evening types" have a 10 percent increased risk for all-cause mortality compared to those who identified as "definitive morning types."
Possible causes of the mortality risk increase include psychological stress, lack of exercise, eating at the wrong time of the day, not enough sleep, or perhaps alcohol and drug use. The study is published in the journal Chronobiology International.
'Night Owl Gene'
Last year, researchers determined a night owl gene mutation that affects people's circadian rhythm, giving them the capability to stay awake until late into the night. Interestingly, this gene was found to affect up to one in 75 people in certain populations.
Naturally, premature death is a rather grim side effect of staying up late, but what are the other problems related to being a night owl?
Poorer Academic Performance
Just last year, researchers published a study wherein they linked poor grades to a mismatch in class hours and the students' biological clocks. Evidently, night owls were found to be most vulnerable to what is called the social jet lag, especially since most classes are in the morning. This leads to poor grades, as they are not able to perform at their best.
Because of this, researchers surmise that a change in the educational setting whereby the biological clocks of the students are considered could prove beneficial to both individual and society.
Exposure To Artificial Light And Breast Cancer Risk
Because night owls tend to be more active during nighttime, they may also be at risk for breast cancer due to their exposure to artificial light. According to a 2017 study, women who were more exposed to artificial light, perhaps due to living in the city or working night shifts, were 14 percent more at risk of developing breast cancer. The increase in risk could potentially be a result of the decrease in melatonin production, the hormone that is in charge of sleep and wake cycles. It is possible that the disruption in sleep patterns also eventually leads to abnormal cell division.
Although most people are exposed to artificial light, night owls are naturally more exposed to it as a result of their active nocturnal activities.
What Can Be Done?
While it's not an easy feat to make a change when it comes to sleeping patterns, it is possible to make small changes. According to the researchers of the current study, this can be done through small but significant changes such as keeping a regular bedtime, opting for exposure to morning light, and doing things earlier in the day. Apart from personal changes, they also state that it's important for society to recognize that people have different biological clocks that sometimes do not match with the environment.
Although the change may not happen overnight, such small changes could aid in the effort to leading a healthier life for night owls.