There’s already a large body of research that indicates it’s much healthier to be morning lark instead of a night owl. One recent study found that self-described evening types were 23 percent more likely to have respiratory disease, 22 percent more likely to have gastrointestinal disease, 30 percent more likely to have diabetes, and had an overall 10% increased risk of dying from any cause.
Now, a new study recently presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, has found that being an early riser can significantly curb a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers analyzed the data of 156,848 women in the UK Biobank project and 228,951 women who had been part of a study led by the international Breast Cancer Association Consortium to see whether or not those with a breast cancer diagnosis were more likely to fall into one of these two chronotypes. Their findings led them to conclude that early risers have a whopping 40 to 48 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer as opposed to night owls. Interestingly enough, they also found that women who slept for more than eight hours a night had a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer for every additional hour they slept, which isn’t so surprising given that recent research has found that sleeping too much can be just as deadly as sleeping too little.
Rebecca Richmond, a research fellow in the Cancer Research UK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme and the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol and lead author of the study, said that “these findings have potential policy implications for influencing sleep habits of the general population in order to improve health and reduce risk of breast cancer among women.” However, she also noted that she “would like to do further work to investigate the mechanisms underpinning these results, as the estimates obtained are based on questions related to morning or evening preference rather than actually whether people get up earlier or later in the day. In other words, it may not be the case that changing your habits changes your risk of breast cancer; it may be more complex than that.” Indeed, you might be thinking: what difference does it make if you stay up late and get up early? How can that possibly affect your health? The answer to that could very well be in this recent study on social jetlag, which posits that because society runs on a schedule which favors those whose alertness and stamina is at its peak in the morning, night owls are constantly forced to mess up their own body clocks in order to conform with standard schedules. So while there may not be anything inherently wrong with staying up late and getting up later in the day, unless you’re retired or self-employed, night owls are constantly struggling against their own biological clocks in order to adapt to the social schedule, at the detriment of their mental and emotional health. This might make night owls more likely to deal with the issue by engaging in poor lifestyle habits, which in turn cause diseases such as cancer.
While changing your chronotype is not easy, it is possible to adapt your behavior by following regimes like Gwyneth Paltrow’s clean sleeping routine.
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