December 20, 2012

The Surprising Health Benefits of Rising Early

Early birds are happier, slimmer and healthier than night owls, according to several recent studies. Morning people also tend to perform better on the job, are more productive, and on average, make more money, researchers also report. And students who rise early shine at school, earning a GPA that’s a full point higher than those who label themselves as night owls (3.5 versus 2.5), a Texas University study found, even after other measures of academic ability were taken into account.
However, night owls also have some advantages, says researcher Christopher Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. “Other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humor and are more outgoing,” he told Harvard Business Review, but added that when it comes to career success, “morning people hold the important cards.”
Here’s a look at six great reasons to get up early—and why doing so is linked to being healthy, wealthy and wise.

Morning larks have more time to exercise. Early risers often start the day with a workout—and that may explain why they tend to be in a better mood all day than those who sleep late. Regular exercise boosts levels of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins and lifts energy levels.

Early risers have better coping skills.
A new study reports found night owls are less emotionally stable than morning people. The researchers surveyed 6,436 adults about their sleep patterns, energy levels and temperament. Overall, larks reported higher energy, found it easier to solve problems, and were more cautious, while night owls were more volatile and impulsive.

Staying up late is linked to weight gain.
A 2011 Australian study of 2,200 adolescents found that those with late wake-up and bedtimes were more than twice as likely to be obese, compared to kids with the opposite habits, regardless of how much sleep they got. The night owls watched more TV (48 extra minutes a day) and exercised less (27 fewer minutes).

Early birds eat fewer calories.
Researchers from Northwestern University report that late sleepers consume 248 more calories per day and eat more fast food and fewer fruits and vegetables than morning larks. Unsurprisingly, given these dietary patterns, the night owls had a higher body mass index, the 2011 study found. The researchers noted that not only is the number of calories you consume important, but when you eat plays a role in weight gain.

Morning people are happier.
A recent study published in the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion, reports that those who consider themselves to be morning people are more cheerful—and not just in the AM—than night owls. Another new study found that the reason older people are typically happier than younger ones is that by age 60, most people become larks. By that age, only 7 percent of adults are still night owls, the researchers reported, compared to 93 percent of people ages 17 to 35. In both young and older people, “morningness” was strongly associated with better moods, the researchers found.

Larks are healthier.
The same study found that morning people rated their health as better than did the night owls. The researchers theorize that rising early doesn’t just make people feel more alert and energetic—it may actually benefit the immune system, which can be adversely affected if people skimp on sleep. Early birds are also less stressed, due to having more time to plan their day, exercise before work, and eat a healthy breakfast.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if larks do better in this society because that's how society is set up. You say they have "time to exercise before work" when we all might have that time if workdays didn't start so early in the morning. If more jobs were available that worked owl hours, we'd probably see more successes come out of it.