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People who stay up late have a higher risk of diabetes

We often speak about the value of sleep, but did you know those who go to bed later are actually at a higher risk of developing diabetes? Here’s what a new study out of the United States has found. 

According to a new study from a group of scientists in Boston, ‘evening chronotypes’ – i.e. night owls – have a 19 per cent increased risk of developing diabetes, because it’s a lifestyle riddled with unhealthier choices.

Not only do those who go to bed early make healthier food choices, but they’re also better rested, and are less likely to consume alcohol or smoke.

“Chronotype, or circadian preference, refers to a person’s preferred timing of sleep and waking and is partly genetically determined so it may be difficult to change,” Tianyi Huang, an associate epidemiologist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, and study co-author, said.

“People who think they are ‘night owls’ may need to pay more attention to their lifestyle because their evening chronotype may add increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

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Huang and her team analysed data from more than 63,000 female nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study II. The women were tested on diet quality, weight and body mass index, sleep timing, smoking behaviours, alcohol use, physical activity, and family history of diabetes.

Of the participants, around 11 per cent identified as being evening chronotypes, 35 per cent were morning chronotypes, and the remainder identified as immediate chronotypes, which means they were neither a morning nor evening person – they simply chopped and changed depending on their circumstances.

Each person was given a diabetes status, and what the night owls found was that prior to considering their lifestyle factors, they had a 72 per cent greater risk of developing the disease. Once their diets, weights, alcohol consumption, smoking status, physical activities and family histories were taken into consideration, the number declined to 19 per cent.

What this shows is that evening chronotypes were already leaps and bounds ahead because of their circadian rhythm – add poor lifestyle choices to the mix and they’re dancing with danger.

Funnily enough, it’s the nurses working the daytime rota that were on the back foot, not those who worked the night shift. That means a good proportion of the daytime workers were the ones staying up way past their bedtimes. Makes sense, given the overnighters likely hit the hay the moment they arrive home after a shift.

“When chronotype was not matched with work hours we saw an increase in type 2 diabetes risk,” Huang explained. “That was another very interesting finding suggesting that more personalised work scheduling could be beneficial.”

Sina Kianersi, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, and co-author agreed that a personalised work schedule is beneficial, however taking care of your body from the inside out might be the biggest necessity of them all.

“When we controlled for unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, the strong association between chronotype and diabetes risk was reduced but still remained, which means that lifestyle factors explain a notable proportion of this association.”

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