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'Night owls' risk earlier deaths and should sleep in, study finds

Study argues for being flexible with jobs and work hours for those who stay up late

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The study of 430,000 Britons over a 61/2-year period found that night owls had a 10 per cent higher risk of dying than the larks.

Paris

PEOPLE who stay up late and have to drag themselves out of bed are likelier to die younger than those who rise and set with the sun, researchers said on Thursday.

A survey of more than 430,000 people in Britain found that "night owls" had a 10 per cent higher risk of dying in the 61/2-year study period than "larks".

Study co-author Malcolm van Schantz of the University of Surrey, arguing that "night types" should be allowed to start and finish work later in the day, said: "This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored.

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Fellow author Kristen Knutson of the Northwestern University in Chicago said: "Night owls trying to live in a morning-lark world may (suffer) health consequences."

The duo gathered information on nearly half a million people aged between 38 and 73 from a public database.

The participants had defined themselves as either "definitely a morning person" (27 per cent), "more a morning person than evening person" (35 per cent), "more an evening than a morning person" (28 per cent), or "definitely an evening person" (nine per cent). They also listed their weight, smoking habits and socioeconomic status.

Deaths in the group - just over 10,500 in total - were documented over the 61/2-year study period.

The night owl group, the team found, had a 10 per cent higher risk of dying than those in the extreme early-morning group.

People in the late-night group were more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, diabetes and stomach and breathing troubles; they slept fewer hours per night, and were also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and coffee, and use illegal drugs.

The higher risk may be because "people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment", said Ms Knutson.

"It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for the body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use."

The research duo urged special treatment for night owls.

"If you can recognise these (types) are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls," she said.

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