People who naturally stay up late and wake up well past sunrise may be more productive in the evening, but researchers have warned that night owls face an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study, led by researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, found that an abnormal sleep schedule can have a negative impact on your metabolism.
They found that people who wake up earlier in the day are more likely to use fat as an energy source when exercising or resting, compared to night owls.
This means that staying up late can cause fat to build up in a person’s body, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Fat build-ups are less likely among ‘early birds’ – reducing their risk of developing the life-altering condition.
Previous research has highlighted a link between sleep timing and environment to the development of diabetes.
A Northwestern University study revealed that a light source present while sleeping can increase the risk of a person developing the disease.
Dr Steven Malin, an assistant professor at Rutgers, said: “The differences in fat metabolism between ‘early birds’ and ‘night owls’ shows that our body’s circadian rhythm (wake/sleep cycle) could affect how our bodies use insulin.
“A sensitive or impaired ability to respond to the insulin hormone has major implications for our health. This observation advances our understanding of how our body’s circadian rhythms impact our health.”
The study, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, gathered data from 51 participants, who were split into two groups.
Half of the participants were considered ‘early birds’, those who go to bed earlier and wake up in the early morning.
The other group were ‘night owls’, who wake up later in the day and are more likely to be active throughout the night.
Researchers used medical imaging to gauge body mass and composition, and sensitivity to insulin among each participant.
They also used breath samples to measure a participant’s fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
They gathered this data because fats and carbohydrates are the body’s two primary sources of energy – these are burned at a higher rate if a person exercises, writes the Daily Mail.
Each participant consumed a set diet controlled for calories, and they were told to not eat at night so their sleeping metabolism would not impact results.
They were scanned during three intervals, when resting, after moderate exercise and after intense exercise for a week as part of the study.
The study found that participants who were active during the day were more likely to use fat as an energy source.
A build up of fat is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, warns the NHS.
People in the early bird group were more sensitive to insulin, meaning their body did not need as much to regulate blood sugar.
Insulin helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy.
But insulin resistant night owls would need more of the hormone to manage blood sugar, this is another risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
In summary, the study found that people who wake up and stay active earlier have a lower risk of developing the disease.
Dr Malin added: “We also found that early birds are more physically active and have higher fitness levels than night owls who are more sedentary throughout the day.
“Further research is needed to examine the link between chronotype, exercise and metabolic adaptation to identify whether exercising earlier in the day has greater health benefits.”