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Early to Rise, Happy in Life

May 10, 2013 11:08AM ● Published by Brian O

Illustration by Colin Javel, Savannah College of Art and Design

WRITTEN BY  GINA OURSLER

If you’re a morning person, you might feel happier and healthier than your night owl counterparts. According to a recent study from the University of Toronto, adults who identify as morning people are said to feel happier and have a better outlook on life than people who identify as night owls (sorry, late nighters). Previous research has suggested this notion, as well; however, it has mostly focused on young adults and not the broader spectrum of individuals.

The study included a sample of 732 participants split into two groups of both male and female adults ranging from 17 to 38 years old and 59 to 79 years old. Participants in both the younger and older adult groups filled out several questionnaires about their overall happiness, sleeping patterns, and health. Adults who reported being a morning person also reported feeling happier and healthier than those who identified as night owls.

According to the study and research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “social jet lag” could be to blame for any unhappiness associated with becoming an early riser. When someone sleeps on a set schedule during the week, the body aligns with that schedule to leave us feeling awake and refreshed each morning. However, this cycle can get interrupted on the weekends when we have a few days away from work or school. Individuals who experience social jet lag could have a hard time adjusting to a set schedule, as they tend to stay up later than the norm.

So, does this mean night owls are not happy and healthy? What about if you’re an occasional victim of the social jet lag phenomenon? Don’t let this study spiral you into a deep depression. Research out of Brown University discovered that night owls could be just as happy and healthy as early morning “larks.” It could all depend on your internal body clock, also known to the world as your circadian rhythm. People who have a shorter rhythm are prone to rise early, while those with longer rhythms stay awake late into the night.

Yet if you are a night owl who wants to adjust your ways, thankfully, there are several steps for you to take. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), becoming an early riser is as simple as sticking to a strict sleeping schedule. This would include things such as waking up and falling asleep at the same time every day (including the weekends), reducing your caffeine intake before bed, and engaging in regular exercise throughout the day.

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