The time you go to bed could increase your risk of diabetes – new study findings

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Scientists found women who go to bed and wake up late – those with an “evening chronotype” – are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles, putting them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Tianyi Huang, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospitals’ Channing Division of Network Medicine in the US, explained: “Chronotype, or circadian preference, refers to a person’s preferred timing of sleep and waking and is partly genetically determined so it may be difficult to change.

“People who think they are ‘night owls’ may need to pay more attention to their lifestyle because their evening chronotype may add increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

The researchers analysed data from nearly 64,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II – one of the largest investigations into the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women in the US – collected from 2009 to 2017.

The data included self-reported sleeping habits, diet, weight, body mass index, sleep timing, smoking behaviour, alcohol use, physical activity and family history of diabetes.

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The team also looked at medical records to see if the women had diabetes.

Of those taking part in the study, 11 percent reported having a definite evening chronotype and about 35 percent reported a definite morning chronotype.

The rest were labelled as intermediate, meaning they identified as neither a morning nor evening person.

After accounting for lifestyle factors, evening chronotype was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of diabetes.

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Among those with the healthiest lifestyles, only six percent had evening chronotypes, compared with 25 percent of night owls who reported having unhealthy lifestyles.

Evening people were also found to be more likely to drink alcohol in higher quantities, have a low-quality food diet, get fewer hours of sleep per night, currently smoke, and have weight, BMI and physical activity rates in the unhealthy range.

Dr Sina Kianersi, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Channing Division of Network Medicine, said: “When we controlled for unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, the strong association between chronotype and diabetes risk was reduced but still remained, which means that lifestyle factors explain a notable proportion of this association.”

The association between evening chronotype and diabetes risk was stronger in nurses who worked day shifts as opposed to night shift workers, “suggesting that more personalised work scheduling could be beneficial”, according to the researchers.

The researchers are now planning to investigate the genetic causes of chronotype and its association with heart disease.

Dr Kianersi said: “If we are able to determine a causal link between chronotype and diabetes or other diseases, physicians could better tailor prevention strategies for their patients.”

The findings were published in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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