Sleeping Late Could Make You More Prone to Develop Diabetes

A new study has an important message for people who consider themselves night owls. Investigators found that people with later sleep and wake times had less healthy lifestyles and were at greater risk of developing diabetes than those with early-bird sleep habits. 

“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.” said corresponding author Tianyi Huang, MSc, ScD.

The researchers previously found that people with more irregular sleep schedules are at higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease and that people with evening chronotypes are more likely to have irregular sleep patterns. For this study, they wanted to understand the relationship between chronotype and diabetes risk and looked at the role of lifestyle factors as well.

The team analyzed data from 63,676 female nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study II collected from 2009-2017 and included self-reported chronotype (the extent to which participants perceived themselves to be an evening person or a morning person), diet quality, weight and body mass index, sleep timing, smoking behaviors, alcohol use, physical activity, and family history of diabetes.

Approximately 11 percent of participants reported having a ‘definite evening’ chronotype and about 35 percent reported having ‘definite morning’ chronotype. The remaining population, around half, were labeled as ‘intermediate,’ meaning they either identified as being neither a morning nor evening type or as being only slightly more one than the other.

The evening chronotype was associated with a 72 percent increased risk for diabetes before accounting for lifestyle factors. After accounting for lifestyle factors, evening chronotype was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of diabetes. Among those in the study with the healthiest lifestyles, only 6 percent had evening chronotypes. Among those with the unhealthiest lifestyles 25 percent were evening chronotypes.

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

“When we controlled for unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, 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,” said first author Sina Kianersi, DVM, PhD.

Next, the researchers plan to investigate genetic determinants of chronotype and its association with cardiovascular disease, in addition to diabetes, in larger, more diverse populations.


Sina Kianersi, Yue Liu, Marta Guasch-Ferré, Susan Redline, Eva Schernhammer, Qi Sun, Tianyi Huang. Chronotype, Unhealthy Lifestyle, and Diabetes Risk in Middle-Aged U.S. Women. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2023; DOI: 10.7326/M23-0728

Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “‘Night owls’ more likely than ‘early birds’ to develop diabetes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2023. <>.

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Photo by Camille Cox