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This Nighttime Habit Dramatically Increases Your Chance of Diabetes

Night owls, beware.

Doctors have warned us for decades about the major risk factors for heart disease and diabetes: obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. But a new study suggests there may be another unusual risk factor at play: Sleep patterns. Researchers found that people who stay up late at night seem to have a dramatically higher risk of developing heart problems and type 2 diabetes. Read on to learn more about how your sleep habits can trigger these and other major health issues—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID And Should Tell Your Doctor.

Night Owls Are Prone to Bad Health Habits

Scientists in Italy looked at 172 middle-aged people as part of an obesity-prevention study on sleep schedules and disease. The participants were divided into three groups: early risers, who tend to wake up and be most active early in the day; "night owls," who generally wake up late and are most active during the late afternoon and evening; and those whose sleep patterns were somewhere in between.

The researchers found that while 30% of early risers had heart disease, nearly 55% of night owls did. And while 9% of early risers had type 2 diabetes, that risk rose to 39% among night owls. (There was no difference in risk between the "morning people" and in-betweeners.)

All three groups had similar BMIs, but night owls were more likely to eat big dinners and less likely to exercise. They were also more prone to other unhealthy habits, such as tobacco use.

The study was presented at a virtual meeting of the European Congress on Obesity last week. It has not yet been peer-reviewed.

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Obesity, According to Science

Other Studies Showed Risk For Night Owls

The findings support an earlier study which found that night owls have 1.3 times the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol compared to early risers, and were less likely to follow a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fish and healthy fats like olive oil.  

"The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important behavioral rhythms in humans," said lead researcher Dr. Giovanna Muscogiuri, an assistant professor of endocrinology at the University of Naples Federico II. She said that efforts to control obesity might be more successful if sleep patterns were considered. For example, doctors might recommend that obese patients develop sleep patterns based on earlier rising, which might help them be more active and eat a better diet.

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Heart Attack, According to Science

How Obesity Endangers Your Health

According to the CDC, 42% of Americans have obesity, and 9.2% are severely obese. Those rates were 30% and almost 5%, respectively, in the year 2000.

Obesity is defined as a BMI (body mass index) over 30, and severe obesity is a BMI of 40 or higher. 

"Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death," the CDC says. And to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss: This Supplement Can Raise Your Cancer Risk, Experts Say.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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