Stay late or stay up all night?
Stay up all year round?
If you want to stay up until 3am or more, stay up till 3am on a regular basis, then you need to be careful, according to research by the University of California, Irvine.
The University of Queensland and the University in California, Berkeley have conducted an extensive research into the effects of the ‘extended’ time frame, which is defined as staying up past 8am on an average day.
The research found that people who stayed up for an extended period had a lower body mass index, were less likely to be obese and had a higher body fat percentage than people who kept up with the time.
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE and used data from the Australian National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), which is conducted every three years.
“We wanted to understand how staying up all day affects health and wellbeing,” said Professor Mark Brown, senior research scientist at the University’s School of Health and Human Services.
“What we found was that staying up for a long time was associated with a lower BMI and a higher prevalence of obesity, and these factors were also associated with being less likely or obese,” he said.
“The longer you stay up, the lower your BMI is, the more you have to eat to stay alive.”
“So if you keep up with a lot of hours you can get a lot worse with weight gain.”
Professor Brown said it was important to understand the relationship between the length of the extended stay and health, as well as the impact of being inactive.
“It’s very hard to make recommendations on how to extend that time frame and it’s really difficult to make that decision based on what we found in this study,” he explained.
“You can’t make a recommendation that you should go and have a birthday party for your partner and have them all over town in your apartment and you should stay up at 3am to celebrate.”
Professor Frank Masella, professor of psychology at the university, said staying up late was an individual decision.
“Our research has shown that we can change our behaviour to help keep our bodies in optimal condition and we can also make changes in our social environments to reduce stress,” he told ABC Radio National.
“But in general, it’s very difficult to do.”
The study found that extended stays increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The results also found that staying late is linked to poor sleep, poor eating habits and poorer sleep quality.
Professor Brown, who is also a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, said people should be aware of the possible health risks associated with extended stay, and that staying awake at 3 am could have health consequences.
“One of the things that we found is that people that stayed up late had lower BMI, higher waist circumference, lower insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol,” he added.
“These are all very important factors for a healthy diet and an optimal lifestyle.”
Professor Masello said that the results of the study could be useful for people who want to work out, eat well and exercise more, and those who want a longer-term impact on their health.
“People who work out all day or have a great body are more likely to have an extended stay in the office, so these people could be doing more damage to their health,” he suggested.
“They might be more likely [to have] diabetes and obesity and heart disease.”
Professor Smith also pointed out that longer stays also had a negative impact on the wellbeing of people with diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions.
Dr Michael Tapper from the Department of Public Policy at the Australian Public Health Association, who was not involved in the study, said it would be interesting to see how long people stayed up after work.
“A lot of research has been done on the long-term effects of working in the workplace and many of the studies have shown that long-lasting work-related stress has a negative effect on the health and well-being of people,” he wrote in an email.
“In terms of longer-lasting health effects of long-standing work-based stress, the evidence from our recent research has suggested that those working longer hours have a higher risk of developing depression, hypertension, and diabetes and those working at lower levels of pay are more vulnerable to these conditions.”
Therefore, if people are planning to stay home longer, and work in the home or elsewhere in their community, it would help to make sure that they have adequate access to a healthy meal and adequate sleep.