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Wednesday June 12, 2024

This study issues a serious health warning to night owls

The research brushes out the claims of being energetic at night and reveals how it can impact one's body

By Web Desk
September 12, 2023
A person can be seen in this picture using a mobile phone during the night. — Pixabay/File
A person can be seen in this picture using a mobile phone during the night. — Pixabay/File

A new warning has been issued for night owls by medical researchers who found in their new study that those who stay up late are more prone to develop Type 2 diabetes owing to their unhealthy lifestyle compared to those who are early birds.

A report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an analysis of over 60,000 female nurses showed that those who stay up late seek unhealthy diets, exercise less, have a higher body mass index, sleep fewer hours smoke cigarettes and develop a risk of diabetes to 19%.

A senior author, Tianyi Huang, an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and an associate epidemiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said: "A 19% increased risk, after adjusting for other factors, is a strong risk factor."

The research brushes out the claims of being energetic at night and reveals how it can impact one's body.

According to Huang, the risk linked simply to being a night owl is due to a person’s chronotype being out of sync with their environment, in particular, their work schedule.

“So, many night owls go to bed late but have to get up early in the day to work,” he said adding that in their study they found that among people with an evening chronotype who did night shift work, there was no association with an increased risk of diabetes.

Marie-Pierre St-Onge, director of the Center of Excellence for Sleep and Circadian Research at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said if it's not possible to find jobs that can be done later in the day, then people with late-night body clocks need to be careful about their lifestyle habits.

"If you are able to eat healthy, sleep well and be physically active, you’re at a lesser risk," St-Onge said.

While some night owls do manage to switch their sleeping patterns because of life events, such as having children, "they tend to revert back," St-Onge said.

Huang stated: "Some people may have a very strong genetic influence for having an evening chronotype. That is what makes it very hard to alter."

While explaining about the night owls, St-Onge noted that some people evolved to have an evening chronotype because there was a "need for some to be vigilant at night, when others could not be, and that way there could be a 24-hour coverage in terms of safety."

Despite calling it interesting, sleep specialist Dr James McGuirk contended that the study doesn’t prove the evening chronotype causes an increased risk of diabetes.

Another limitation of the study is that it was made up of mostly white women, said McGuirk, an assistant professor of neurology at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

"They really feel they should go to bed early," he said. "They think they have insomnia. But they’re just working against an internal chronotype."