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"For nocturnal people, trying to live in a morning world, can have health consequences", said Kristen Knutson from the Northwestern University, in Chicago, and one of the study's co-authors.

The researchers said society needs to recognize that making night owls start work early may not be good for their health. "There's hope, but it may take some effort".

Well, according to a huge study carried out in the United Kingdom involving 433, 268 adults, that may very well be the case. They asked participants whether they were a morning or evening person, and to what degree (moderate or definite).

For instance, eating at the wrong time could mean a person's body won't process blood sugar correctly which could contribute to diabetes or heart disease.

The results for the night owls weren't so great. Participants in the initiative, which took place from 2006 to 2010, defined themselves as either a "morning person" or "evening person".

After controlling for factors like age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index, smoking status and sleep duration, the researchers discovered that those who identified as "definite evening types" saw a 10% increased risk of dying during the six and a half follow-up period, compared to those who said they were "definite morning types".

People in the late-night group were more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, diabetes, and stomach and breathing troubles, and slept fewer hours per night. "There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself", she added.

But what if being a night person carried certain health risks?

"What we think might be happening is, there's a problem for the night owl who's trying to live in the morning lark world", Knutson said. "They have to get up earlier for work, perhaps, or if they want to socialize with friends and family that might occur earlier than their biological clock would want".

Those studies support the idea that working against the body's natural inclination can be hazardous to your health. 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.

Dr Knutson said that one way night owls could help themselves was to ensure they are exposed to light early in the morning, but not at night. "It's important to do this gradually". You can't suddenly tonight just go to bed three hours earlier. "You're not going to be able to go to sleep, and you might give up". "That not only makes it hard to fall asleep; it's also a signal to your clock to start being later again".

For those who are night owls by choice or by circumstance - shift workers, for example - Knutson recommends focusing on other lifestyle choices that can influence their health.

"That might help ameliorate any potential health problems", Knutson said.

Results were published Thursday in the journal Chronobiology International.

The UCLA Sleep Center has more about circadian rhythms.


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