Are Night Owls At Risk For Heart Disease And Diabetes?

Many of your bodily functions follow a daily pattern known as the circadian rhythm. This natural internal clock regulates your body temperature, hormone levels, and sleep-wake cycle.

The timing of your circadian rhythm is partially determined by light exposure, but it’s also influenced by genetic factors, too. This is why some people are naturally inclined to be morning birds, while others are more likely to be night owls.

Early Risers Tend To Be Healthier and Happier

Although many factors influence health and well-being, some evidence suggests that early risers tend to report higher levels of positive mood and overall satisfaction with life.

This may be because they’re more likely to be more in sync with the natural sunlight patterns. Increased sunlight exposure may help the circadian rhythm regulate hormones like cortisol and serotonin, which can reduce stress and improve mood.

Early risers also tend to be more physically and socially active than night owls, which may also contribute to their good health and happiness.

Night Owls May Be At Higher Risk For Health Problems

Research has linked being a night owl to an increased risk for health problems, including:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Anxiety

Part of this may be related to the associated lifestyle factors that often go hand-in-hand with being a night owl. For example, night owls are more likely to have irregular sleep patterns, which can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

They’re also more likely to have unhealthy habits, like smoking, drinking alcohol, eating junk food, and not getting enough exercise. All of these factors can contribute to health issues.

New research published in September 2022 suggests that there may also be a difference in the way different chronotypes process and use carbohydrates and fat as fuel.

This study showed that early chronotypes (morning people) tend to burn more fat for fuel, while late chronotypes (night owls) tend to burn more carbohydrates. Night owls also tend to be more insulin resistant, which is the main risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

This difference in fuel usage may help explain why night owls are at increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

If You Are a Night Owl…

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lifetime of health problems if you’re a night owl. It does suggest that you may need to be more mindful of your habits.

If you are a night owl, you still need to ensure you get enough high-quality sleep. Also, consider making some lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Eating a healthier diet and limiting late-night snacking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Not smoking
  • Managing stress in a healthy way

These changes can be good for anyone, but they may be especially important for night owls at increased risk for health problems.

It’s also possible that your sleep type may evolve as you get older or shift into different life experiences. So even though you are a night owl now, you may find yourself learning to love mornings in the future.