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Night Owls More Prone to Health Issues

People who get to bed late likely to have poorer sleep quality and engage in unhealthy behaviors

Night owls, take heed! Even when you get the same amount of sleep as early birds, you could be at higher risk of developing diabetes and other serious health problems, according to a new study.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, analyzed the sleep habits of more than 1,600 people in South Korea, aged 47 to 59. Of the 1,600 people in the study, 95 were night owls, 480 were morning people and the rest fell somewhere between the two extremes.

“Regardless of lifestyle, people who stayed up late faced a higher risk of developing health problems like diabetes or reduced muscle mass than those who were early risers,” said Nan Hee Kim, M.D., of Korea University College of Medicine in Ansan, South Korea. “This could be caused by night owls’ tendency to have poorer sleep quality and to engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, late-night eating and a sedentary lifestyle.”

Even though the night owls in the study tended to be younger, they had higher levels of body fat and fats in the blood than early risers. Night owls also were more likely to have sarcopenia, a condition where the body gradually loses muscle mass. Men who were night owls were more likely to have diabetes or sarcopenia than those who were early risers, the researchers found. And women who stay up late had more belly fat and a higher likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome—a collection of health conditions that increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

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Though the study found only an association between being a night owl and increased health problems, Dr. Kim said the risk associated with this type of sleep habit is “an important health issue that needs to be addressed.”

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