The researchers tracked 500,000 British people over six years, and corrected their figures for common problems suffered by night owls such as heart disease.
Those who slept later at night are more likely to have diabetes, neurological disorders, psychological disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders, says Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and a lead author on the study.
The findings add to a growing body of research that suggests that being a night owl could have negative effects on health.
Some bad news for those who like to stay up late. For example, some studies have shown that evening people are less likely to eat a healthy diet and more likely to use substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs, compared with morning people.
Out of the 433,268 people that answered the chronotype question and provided sufficient health data, 27% were definite morning types, 35% moderate morning types, 28% moderate evening types, and 9% definite evening types. Everything from work time to meal time occurs at a time that doesn't feel right for night owls, a state that researchers call "social jetlag". However, this is the first such study to also look at the risk of mortality among those people.
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The researchers said society needs to recognize that making night owls start work early may not be good for their health. Though the study didn't examine the cause of this correlation, researchers suspect the problem doesn't actually have to do with sleeping in, specifically.
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".
For those who still struggle with mornings, finding a job that has flexible hours or hours more consistent with your biological clock could be a solution. They sorted people by whether they were definite morning types (aka "morning larks"), definite evening types, moderate morning types or moderate evening types.
Because of that, researchers think that allowing people to have more flexible schedules that fit their internal body clocks could improve their health. "It's strong in that it's a big sample of almost half a million people, but it is mainly Caucasians of Irish or English descent". As a result, the mismatch between their body clock and their external world impacts their health in the long run, particularly if they have an irregular schedule. Generally, if people prefer to go to bed later and wake up later on days they don't have to work, they're probably suffering from at least some degree of social jetlag.
Chronotype was also measured based on self-reports rather than objective measures, one of the study's main limitations, according to Knutson.