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Evening Types Are At Higher Risk of Most Things

sharma-obesity-sleepThe proverb, “Early to Bed and Early to Rise….” (a similar version exists in almost every language) was probably not too far off the mark (not something a night-owl like me cares to hear).

But the science on this is getting stronger in leaps and bounds.

Thus, in a study just published in PLoS One, Eliane Lucassen and colleagues from the US National Institutes of Health show that “evening types” may indeed have greater health risks.

Based on previous evidence that “evening types” tend to have unhealthier eating habits and suffer from psychological problems more frequently than “morning types”, the authors decided to examine this issue in a cohort of obese individuals reporting sleeping less than 6.5 hours per night.

The study included about 120 individuals with an average BMI of about 40, who slept about 5.8 hours per night.

Not only was progression towards eveningness associated with an increase in BMI, resting heart rate, food portion size, a decrease in the number of eating occasions and lower levels of HDL-cholesterol, evening types also had higher 24 h urinary epinephrine excretion and higher morning plasma ACTH levels.

In addition, Evening types more often had sleep apnea, independent of BMI or neck circumference.

Evidence enough to conclude that preferences to be more active and stay awake in the evenings is not only associated with eating later with a tendency towards fewer and larger meals, it also appears to be a risk factor for sleep apnea and cardio vascular problems – at least in short sleepers.

It seems like taking a good sleep history will soon be part of medical practice – is sleep quality and duration the next vital sign?

Regina, SK

ResearchBlogging.orgLucassen EA, Zhao X, Rother KI, Mattingly MS, Courville AB, de Jonge L, Csako G, Cizza G, & for the Sleep Extension Study Group (2013). Evening Chronotype Is Associated with Changes in Eating Behavior, More Sleep Apnea, and Increased Stress Hormones in Short Sleeping Obese Individuals. PloS one, 8 (3) PMID: 23483886


  1. Interesting. I’m curious about the differences between:
    * Natural night people who keep night hours
    * Natural night people who force themselves to keep morning hours (this is me)
    * Natural morning people

    I sometimes wonder if forcing my self away from my natural schedule is a good idea.

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  2. As a fellow night-owl, certainly not something I want to hear. But without reading the research (and it likely being beyond my education to really analyze anyway), seems to be more a a problem of not getting enough sleep rather than a sleep time preference?

    Of course, being a night owl, I realize how difficult it can be to get enough sleep if you’re, say, working the normal 9-5. 5.8 hours a night? Sheesh, I’d be a mess in no time!

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  3. Clearly an article written by a morning person! The most howling flaw in this article is confusing sleep deprivation with being an “evening person.” Some people seem to be genetically predisposed towards mornings and others towards evenings. My personal observations (and there is some research to back this up) is that “morning people” tend to more motivated by the validation of others, while “evening people” tend to be more self validated. That translates into morning people being better followers, mid-to-low-level workers while evening people make better innovators and leaders. The morning people suffer more neurosis-based stress (trying to keep up and whatnot), while evening folks may experience more isolation-oriented issues. Who dies sooner? My money’s on the morning people.

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  4. How is this research valid for non-obese people? Obese individuals have a multitude of health risk factors and sleep apnea and poor eating choices are already among them. Why do these studies always insist that the average person is overweight and sedentary?

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  5. Poor eating choices are made by both obese and non-obese people. What differs is the consequence of those choices.

    What seems to me to be the common ground between being a night owl and obesity (I suffer from both conditions) is an inability to regulate, in a natural, unconscious way, normal body functions. Left to my ‘natural’ sleep cycle, I would stay up for more than 24 hours. I am never tired after 18 hours of wakefulness. I must measure and weigh everything I eat, because if I eat what I feel like I would like to eat, massive weight gain would result. I am in awe of people who can sleep naturally in a 24 hour cycle, whether night owls or morning people, and people who can maintain their weight without extraordinary effort.

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