Are you an early riser or a late riser? Finnish researchers have investigated whether and how this affects your health.

Do you get up early in the morning in a good mood, or do you prefer to sleep in late and only get going slowly? Whether you’re an early riser or a late riser – or, as the jargon goes, which chronotype you belong to – depends largely on our genetics. But one thing is certain: one of the two types not only has more disadvantages in life because of its sleep-wake rhythm, but also has a shorter life expectancy.

Are early risers healthier than late sleepers?

Whether early risers or late risers: we all have an internal clock that determines our sleep-wake rhythm. But it doesn’t just affect when we get awake or tired. As several studies have found out, the chronotype also has an influence on lifestyle – and this in turn on health.

For example, the so-called night owls, i.e. the nocturnal people who like to sleep in late, would have a higher risk of various physical and mental illnesses. They also consume more fast food, coffee, alcohol and nicotine, and are more likely to be overweight.

How lifestyle and chronotype affect mortality risk

A Finnish study shows that this unhealthy lifestyle has an impact on life expectancy. It found that people of the night owl type have a slightly higher risk of dying than those of the lark type. But is this solely due to lifestyle – or does the chronotype have more influence on life expectancy than was previously assumed?

That’s exactly what Finnish researchers Christer Hublin and Jaakko Kaprio wanted to find out. To do this, they analyzed data from a Finnish twin study in which almost 23,000 people were observed between 1981 and 2018. The subjects were first divided into different groups according to their chronotype. Factors such as the participants’ level of education, alcohol and tobacco consumption, body mass index (BMI) and sleep duration were also taken into account.

Early risers sleep longer

The results showed that the early risers slept significantly longer than the night people. According to their own data, the latter rarely got more than 8 hours of sleep. They also consumed more alcohol and nicotine. According to the study, “There is a reciprocal relationship between the reward system and the 24-hour rhythm, and the extent of alcohol and drug use correlates with the preference to stay up late at night.”

In doing so, the researchers also found that the likelihood of death was 9 percent higher among the late sleepers compared to early risers. However, as a detailed analysis showed, the main causes of this were nicotine and alcohol – and not the chronotype.

Conclusion: Early risers have the healthier lifestyle

In summary, it can be said that early risers are usually healthier. However, this is not because they get up early in the morning – but rather because they consume less alcohol and nicotine than the late risers. So, you can remain a night owl with a clear conscience and sleep in late in the morning – as long as you abstain from alcohol and cigarettes for the sake of your health.