Examining the link between people’s sleep timing preferences, lifestyle, and diabetes

September 19, 2023 – People who tend to stay up late have a higher risk of developing diabetes than those who rise early, a new study found.

The study, published September 12 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that night owls are 72% more likely than early birds to develop diabetes. Following nearly 64,000 nurses from 2009–2017, researchers found that those who reported that they were night owls tended to have poorer diets, unhealthy weight, and were less physically active. But even after researchers adjusted for lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking status, night owls still were 19% more likely to develop diabetes than non-night owls, suggesting that genetic factors may be involved. Co-authors of the article included Harvard Chan School’s Marta Guasch-Ferré, adjunct associate professor of nutrition, and Eva Schernhammer, adjunct professor of epidemiology, as well as colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

An accompanying editorial by other Harvard Chan researchers—Kehuan Lin, doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology; Mingyang Song, associate professor of clinical epidemiology and nutrition; and Edward Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology—suggested the need for further research on the connections between a person’s chronotype—their preference for earlier or later sleep timing—their lifestyle, and their diabetes risk.

Read an article in HealthDay: ‘Night Owls’ Are Often Less Healthy, Upping Diabetes Risk