Early to bed, early to rise and the early bird gets the worm. Everyone has heard the cliches, but according to a new study by Northwestern University and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, late-night habits may be more deadly than many of us think.
Science Daily recently released an article based on the study, detailing how “night owls” have a higher chance of dying than morning people who go to bed early.
The study, conducted on 500,000 people over six-and-a-half years, found that night owls who have to get up early for work or other responsibilities have a 10 percent higher chance of dying than their early to bed, early to rise counterparts.
“We know that there’s a lot of negative effects from sleep deprivation,” said Doc Sheehan, a biological sciences lecturer at Plattsburgh State. “So if you don’t sleep at night, but you still have to get up at seven o’clock in the morning, you’re not only living on an altered schedule, you’re living with sleep deprivation on a regular basis.”
Previous studies around this topic already discovered correlations between being a night person and metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this was the first to examine the relationship with mortality rates.
PSUC junior and TV-video production and digital media production double major Mike Campbell knows the struggle of being a night owl in a morning person’s world well. Between his schoolwork, his workout requirements related to being on the PSUC track and field team and his job at Lowe’s Home Improvement, Campbell regularly stays up late and gets up early.
“I usually wake up with a headache that doesn’t really go away unless I take painkillers,” Campbell said. “I start my day off with a nice glass of water with a couple ibuprofens.”
In contrast, senior business administration major Nicholas Ashline is a self-proclaimed morning person.
He mentioned that while this trait helps him throughout the day, it sometimes comes back to bite him at night.
“It helps me as I go through my day, but then it also takes longer to fall asleep,” Ashline said.
The article also suggested that some people may simply be genetically predisposed to having a biological clock that makes them stay up later, a sentiment Sheehan acknowledged as plausible, and that our society may feed into it.
“It’s certainly a possibility, and the article makes good suggestions about things [to help deal with it] like limiting light,” Sheehan said. “Once upon a time, we lived in a society when as we evolved, there was light during the day and dark at night. Now, we’re exposed to electric lights, electronic devices that feed into our eyes, feed into our brain, and give us an artificial sense of what day is.”
Sheehan went on to suggest that people may select jobs based on what kind of person they are, referring to his and his wife’s experience working in restaurants in the past.
“You tend to work really late, you finish your shift and you’re very energized,” Sheehan said. “You tend to want to hang around with the people you’re energized with, which may involve behaviors that aren’t necessarily supportive of health. There’s a lot of confounding possibilities in the study.”
Finally, the study brought up the possibility of society adjusting to allow night people to start work later, though suggesting the change and actually implementing are different stories.
It’s something that Sheehan thinks we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand.
“It’s something we should take note of and say, ‘Is there anything we can do for folks like this that would make it easier for them?’”
Email Ben Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org