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Night Owls Or Early Birds: Who’s At A Higher Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes & Heart Diseases?

Updated on: 06 February,2023 04:13 PM IST  |  Mumbai
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Researchers conducted a study that compared night owls, those who stay up late, with the early birds, those who are at their most energetic in the mornings. This study showed that sleeping in till later in the morning and staying awake late at night makes people more susceptible to developing certain chronic diseases.

Night Owls Or Early Birds: Who’s At A Higher Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes & Heart Diseases?

The author, Dr Saptarshi Bhattacharjee, Endocrinologist, Apollo 24|7, is one of the most renowned endocrinologists in Delhi, with diverse medical expertise in handling complicated conditions. He is known for treating life-threatening ailments like adrenal cancer. Through hands-on experience and research-backed procedures, he offers relief to patients of all age groups.

Are you one of those who love to wake up early in the morning or someone who just can’t seem to get out of bed until the last possible moment? Do you go to sleep at a reasonable hour, or do you like staying up until late into the night? Your chronotype refers to the time of the day when you tend to be more active. Early birds promptly get out of bed and are perfectly active in the morning. On the other hand, night owls take a while to get going in the morning but prefer to stay up late during the night. 

People often adapt their working schedules depending on whether they function better in the afternoon or the morning. But, did you know that your chronotype can impact not only your functioning but also your health? Well, it’s true! Recent research shows that your chronotype has an effect on your overall well-being. A new study has found that night owls are at a greater risk for developing heart diseases and type 2 diabetes when compared to early birds.

How Was This Study Conducted?

A team of scientists and researchers from the University of Virginia and Rutgers University split a group of 51 adults into two sub-groups according to their sleep chronotype – 24 early birds and 27 night owls. All of the individuals involved in the study didn’t smoke, were free of cancer and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and led a sedentary lifestyle, which means that they exercised for under 60 minutes every week. 

Scientists leading this study assessed the body composition and body mass of participants. To do this, they used advanced imaging. They also used breath samples for measuring carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Furthermore, participants’ insulin sensitivity was tested. Researchers monitored their activity levels, performed treadmill tests to assess their aerobic fitness levels, and provided them with all the meals to regulate energy intake.

How Does Your Chronotype Affect Your Health?

Your chronotype also referred to as the sleep-wake cycle, programmes the biological clock of your body. It is strongly linked to your well-being and a number of chronic health issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity, digestive disorders, mental illnesses, and fertility problems. Most of the research focusing on the relationship between chronotype and health is centred around the results of disruptive and non-uniform sleep cycles. The new study mentioned above diverted from this approach and focussed on those who do adhere to their natural sleep-wake cycles, which are also referred to as circadian rhythms. Researchers dug deep into two different sleep chronotypes: night owls (those who were most active later in the day and stayed up late into the night) and early birds (those who were the sharpest in the mornings and slept early). 

All in all, the study discovered that night owls are less capable of using fat for energy, leading to the accumulation of fat in the body and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These metabolic differences are caused by the difference in the ability of people with distinct sleep chronotypes to utilise insulin for converting glucose into energy. According to the results of this study, early birds use glucose much more efficiently for energy, which the cells can use immediately or even store for later. This allows them to not only churn through this source of energy but also burn fat for energy after that. In contrast, the use of glucose is not as efficient in the case of night owls, making them unable to burn through their fat stores as much. 

In a Nutshell

Being a night owl puts you at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes when compared to early birds. The research indicates that sleep chronotypes depend on genetics to an extent and they might be passed down in the family, which makes them difficult to change. However, it’s not impossible.

Once you are aware of your chronotype, you can make decisions that can help you lead a healthier life, decreasing the chances of illnesses. You can take essential measures like eating a balanced diet, avoiding late-night meals, engaging in physical activity, and going to bed earlier. You can take steps to gradually and slowly transform yourself into an early bird. 


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