Do Early Birds Live Longer Than Night Owls?

In our society, it seems that early birds have got it made. With schools often starting before 8:30 a.m. and workplaces often starting by 9 a.m., the world revolves around early birds' schedules. With society's schedule in line with theirs, it is no surprise that early birds tend to perform better at work (per Occupational and Environmental Medicine). After all, they don't have to miss out on sleep by waking up any earlier than they would have otherwise.

However, it turns out the advantages of being an early bird go further than simply performing at your fullest potential at work. Early birds are generally healthier, and are less likely to develop depression and schizophrenia (per The Harvard Gazette). In fact, a large study published in Chronobiology International (via Science Daily) found that not only do night owls have a higher risk of many diseases, they are 10% more likely to die early than early birds.

This is why early birds live longer

Much of the disparity in life expectancy can be pinned down to societal factors. Study author Kristen Knutson noted (via Science Daily) that when trying to conform to society's schedule, night owls may not get enough sleep and may eat at the wrong time for their bodies. On the other hand, if they embrace their nocturnal tendencies, they end up spending more time alone, which can not only influence one's health and life expectancy all on its own (per PLoS One), but it may predispose a person to drug and alcohol use.

New York Times observes that there are few opportunities to partake in exercise classes and athletics in the middle of the night, and oftentimes for people who want to order out, there are few options aside from fast food. This can cause night owls' diets and exercise routines to suffer. All of this can take a toll on night owls' health, putting them at higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, two of the most common causes of death (per Science Daily).

Science Daily notes that society can do a lot to start accommodating night owls. In the meantime, Knutson recommends that night owls try to engage in healthy behaviors and shift to an earlier sleep schedule as much as they can. One way to do this is to expose oneself to light early in the morning.