According to a recent study published in Experimental Physiology, night owls may be more susceptible to diabetes and heart disease because their bodies don’t burn fat for energy as effectively as early birds.
The researchers discovered that those who wake up early typically rely more on fat as an energy source and are frequently more active during the day. Staying up longer could result in less energy being used, which could lead to body fat accumulation and an increase in the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
One of the study’s authors and a metabolism expert at Rutgers University, Steven Malin, PhD, told The Guardian that the findings “may assist medical practitioners consider another behavioural element contributing to illness risk.”
When compared to early birds, “night owls are reported to have a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” he noted.
Using responses to a questionnaire regarding sleep and activity patterns, Malin and colleagues divided 51 obese middle-aged adults into early risers and night owls. The participants’ activity patterns were observed by the researchers for a week, and their bodies’ preferred fuel sources were assessed both at rest and when engaging in low-, moderate-, and high-intensity treadmill exercise.
The study’s authors discovered that early risers were more sensitive to insulin levels and burnt more fat during exercise and relaxation than night owls. The night owls, on the other hand, were less sensitive to insulin and used more carbohydrates than fat for energy.
According to Malin, it’s unknown why there are disparities in metabolism between night owls and early birds. However, there may be a discrepancy between people’s real sleep and wake hours and their natural bodily cycles.
According to him, there are several reasons why people’s circadian rhythms can fall out of sync, but among adults, work is probably the biggest one.
For example, a night owl might like to stay up late but still need to get up early to go to work or take care of the kids. They could go out of sync with their circadian rhythm as a result.
According to USA Today, the study’s findings may have an impact on sleep-wake cycles, as well as policies governing annual time changes and the health concerns associated with working nights.
Health hazards could increase if we encourage a timing pattern that is out of step with nature, according to Malin. We believe that time will allow it to become obvious whether certain food habits or physical activity can help to mitigate them.