Is it unhealthy to be nocturnal?

Inner clock Night owls die earlier

"The early bird catches the worm." An old saying that night owls just find annoying. But the early bird lives much healthier and longer because the world is guided by it.

Scientists from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University in Chicago found in a study that those of their 430,000 participants who identified themselves as nocturnal had a ten percent higher risk of death than those who rose early. In addition, the night owls had a much stronger tendency towards mental health problems, diabetes, stomach and breathing problems. In addition, they slept less and even consumed comparatively more coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs.

They think differently

Most likely to blame for this is the stress the night owls build up from living against their internal clock as they try to adapt to a world of morning people. The fact that nocturnal people are less productive early in the day than later is not a character weakness, but has to do with our genes. Because whether we are more of a night owl or a lark is genetically determined.

As early as the 1970s, Ronald Konopka at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) discovered that a number of genes regulate our internal clock. At that time he was researching fruit flies.

They were also the preferred research subject of chronobiologists Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young. They followed up on Konopka's research and managed to isolate certain fruit fly genes and study them further.

In it they found the building instructions for various proteins that set the inner rhythm of living beings. In 2017, the three scientists received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for this.

More flexible daily routines needed

Our internal clock influences our sleep, hormonal balance and our metabolism. And that, of course, also influences our performance. That is why Kristen Knutson, co-author of the study, advocates special treatment of nocturnal people. For example, they should be able to postpone their working hours. You shouldn't be forced to get up for an eight o'clock shift.

In previous studies, researchers have found that a lack of sleep has a negative impact on health. For example, a higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease or diabetes was found. The Chicago study, on the other hand, examined the risk of death for the first time. It appeared in the journal "Chronobiologie International".