Night owls die sooner, says study
A new study from researchers at Northwestern University and University of Surrey links being a night owl to dying younger. It’s a large study of nearly half a million people and the first to document such a link.
Anyone who gravitates toward the nighttime knows what it's like when some killjoy in their lives forces them to get up too early the next day. “It's not healthy," these evil people say, and a new study suggests they're right: Night owls don't live as long as day people. But why? It's those anti-sleepists. The study (sorta) says that they stress us out and thus wind up shortening our lives. As co-lead author of the study neurologist Kristen Knutson says in a Northwestern University press release, “Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies."
The study, published in Chronobiology International, is by Knutson at Northwestern University in the U.S and chronobiologist Malcolm von Schantz at University of Surrey in the U.K. Chronobiology examines our natural physiological rhythms and how they interact with external natural cyclic phenomena. Being an owl or a lark is, in the chronobiological view, a matter of your chronotype.
The cost of living in darkness
The research, involving 433, 268 people in the UK Biobank Study, is the first to link being a night owl to a higher risk of mortality. Bottom line: Night people are 10% more likely to live a shorter life thank larks are. During the 6½-year study sample, 50,000 of them had a higher chance of dying.
Knutson suggests, "It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment." If so, it's just the way they're wired, and they're forced to ignore their own internal clock to operate in the 9-to-5 world. The study posits, “Mortality risk in evening types may be due to behavioral, psychological and physiological risk factors, many of which may be attributable to chronic misalignment between internal physiological timing and externally imposed timing of work and social activities."
What to do about this? von Schantz adds, “This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored. We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time."
On top of this, it's also true that being up late can encourage life-shortening activities, from “eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use," says Knutson. “There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviors related to being up late in the dark by yourself."
Can you change your chronotype?
The authors believe that being an owl or a lark is a combination of genetics and environment, and so, “You're not doomed," according to Knutson. “Part of it you don't have any control over and part of it you might." If you want to retrain yourself into being a day person, there are a few things you can try, she says:
- Stick to a schedule of going to bed earlier and don't let yourself drift to that later schedule that so calls to you.
- Try to get your to-do list checked off early each day to help you get to bed on time.
- Expose yourself to light early in the morning but keep your environment dark when it gets late.
Knutson plans more research on how night owls can shit their body clocks into sync with larks. “Then we'll see if we get improvements in blood pressure and overall health," she says.
Meeting night owls halfway
Still, not everyone will want to, or be able to, become a day person, and, says Knutson, “If we can recognize these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls. They shouldn't be forced to get up for an 8 a.m. shift." Instead, “Make work shifts match peoples' chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts."
Another idea the study puts forth is that we should abolish Daylight Savings Time since switching to it in the spring is much harder on night owls. von Schwartz notes, “There are already reports of higher incidence of heart attacks following the switch to summer time. And we have to remember that even a small additional risk is multiplied by more than 1.3 billion people who experience this shift every year. I think we need to seriously consider whether the suggested benefits outweigh these risks."
What this study adds up to, says one night owl
Night-owl chronotypes don't operate the same way as the morning-lark chronotypes who are in charge of the world. This resulting conflict so stresses night owls that our lives are shortened. See where we're going with this? Let us sleep for Pete's sake.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."
- The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
- Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
- However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.
- Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
- The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
- Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
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