Being a Night Owl is Bad for Your Health

Contents hide Sleeping Preferences and Health A new study shows that being an early riser or a night owl can actually affect your health. Researchers have discovered that people with an evening preference or night … Read more

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, Sleep Researcher
Last Updated: Thu, December 20, 2018
Fact checked by:

Marko Jevtic

, Sleep Specialist

A new study shows that being an early riser or a night owl can actually affect your health. Researchers have discovered that people with an evening preference or night owls have a higher risk of suffering from heart disease and type 2 diabetes that people who prefer to rise early in the morning. Night owls tend to consume more unhealthy foods and to eat irregular. The findings of the study were published in Advances in Nutrition on November 30.

Sleeping Preferences and Health

The human body runs on a 24-hour cycle is regulated by an internal body clock, also known as circadian rhythm. Our internal clock doesn’t only regulate sleep but also tells you when to eat, sleep and wake. Every circadian rhythm is unique and causes to forming a natural preference towards either waking up early in the morning or going to bed late in the evening. Scientists from the Northumbria University have found out that people with the evening chronotype (who go to bed late) have a higher chance of suffering from heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The risk is increased because the findings also indicate that night owls have unhealthier diets, consuming more alcohol, junk food, sugars and caffeinated drinks than early risers. Night owls report more erratic eating patterns, such as missing breakfast and eating later in the day. The diet of night owls contains less healthy food, especially grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and their meals are typically larger than average. They also report consuming a lot of caffeinated drinks, fast food, sugar, and snacks.

On the flip side, early risers eat more fruits and vegetables, and have more meals but in smaller portions. The bad dietary choices may explain why night owls are more prone to suffering from chronic disease. Since the internal body clock also influences the way glucose is metabolized in the body, eating late in the day is also linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Night owls prefer eating before bed which leads to increased glucose levels. Naturally, glucose levels should be the lowest at night. When this is frequently done, it could negatively affect metabolism because it doesn’t follow the normal biological processes of the body.

This can also impact people who work shifts, particularly if their shifts rotate and they need to adjust their body to their working hours constantly. Doing so reduces their sensitivity to insulin and affects glucose tolerance, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study also uncovered some interesting facts and trends. For example, people’s preferences to wake up early or go to bed late change at varying points in the life cycle. Most children are typically early risers until six years old, and become night owls during puberty. The evening often preferences last until an adult reaches their early fifties. After that, they begin to revert back to a morning chronotype.

Being exposed to daylight also influences sleep. Studies show that every additional hour spent outdoors brings 30 minutes of ‘advance sleep’. Lighting, noise, crowding of urban environments, and similar external factors can affect whether a person becomes an early riser or a night owl. Night owls typically accumulate ‘sleep debt’ during the working week and sleep longer at weekends to catch up. Early risers have small differences in their sleeping patterns across the entire week.

Further research aims to find out how people’s circadian rhythm affects their dietary habits and health in the long-term. Researchers will also try to identify the best methods to evaluate one’s chronotype, and how their sleeping preferences may impact one’s long-term cardiometabolic health.

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