Researchers studied 433,268 people, aged 38 to 73, who defined themselves as either “definite morning” types, “moderate morning” types, “moderate evening” types or “definite evening” types.
They followed their health for an average of six-and-a-half years, tracking cause of death with death certificates.
After controlling for age and sex, smoking, body mass index, sleep duration and other variables, they found that compared with “definite morning” types, “definite evening” types had a 10 percent increased risk of dying from any cause.
Each increase from “morningness” to “eveningness” was associated with an increased risk for disease.
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Night owls were nearly twice as likely as early risers to have a psychological disorder and 30 percent more likely to have diabetes.
Their risk for respiratory disease was 23 percent higher and for gastrointestinal disease 22 percent higher.
Gastrointestinal disorders include such conditions as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids, anal fissures, perianal abscesses, anal fistulas, perianal infections, diverticular diseases, colitis, colon polyps and cancer.
According to lead author, Kristen L. Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University, while being a night owl is partly genetic, people can make adjustments.
Knutson recommended gradually making bedtime earlier, avoiding using smartphones before bed, and eventually moving themselves out of the “night owl zone.”
Although the reasons for their increased mortality remain unclear, she said: “Night owls should know that there may be some health consequences.”
Tips to get to sleep
If you can’t get sleep until the early hours and subsequently wake up later in the day, there are simple ways to improve your sleeping routine.
First of all, keep regular sleeping hours – this programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine, says the NHS.
According to the health body, most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night.
“By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule,” the health site says.
It is also important to try and wake up at the same time every day.
The NHS explains: “While it may seem like a good idea to try to catch up on sleep after a bad night, doing so on a regular basis can also disrupt your sleep routine.”