Being Perky in the Morning Has Its Perks

by Blake Herzog

There’s a constant push and pull between those who define themselves as “early birds” versus “night owls,” daily routines defined by both genes and habit. Both lifestyles and the people who inhabit them have their advantages and disadvantages.

But most research into the subject has found significant physical and mental health advantages for those who are aligned with the sunrise and can get exercise and a balanced breakfast before moving on to the rest of their day.

If you’re able to shift your schedule forward so you can be up around the same time as the sun, these are some of the things you may gain besides a couple of well-lighted hours.

A healthy weight

It’s not clear why, but multiple studies have shown that people who rise earlier in the day, roughly between 5 and 7 a.m., tend to have a lower body mass index than those who wake up around 8:30 a.m. or later (night owls are more often defined by when they go to sleep, usually going to bed at midnight or later).

One Northwestern University study found this difference persists independent of nutrition or exercise habits, with earlier exposure to bright light correlated with lower weight.

A proactive mindset

The cliché of the early bird getting the worm does seem to apply here. Waking early and having time to reflect and set goals for the day has been tied to greater success at work and increased confidence, with early birds more likely to agree with statements along the lines of “I am in control of making things happen” and being assertive in their daily interactions.

This also holds true in one paper produced at the University of Leipzig studying people who wake at consistent times on workdays and weekends.

Better moods

Morning people are up to 25% more likely to feel happy and cheerful during the day, in a finding from a University of Toronto study backed up by several others.

Other researchers have found that night owls face a 50% higher risk of psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and neuroticism.