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The Benefits of Being a Morning Person

February 2018 - by Cassie Shortsleeve, Guest Contributor

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The morning lark versus night owl debate is a timeless one. In part that’s because, while we may not always be acutely aware of it, each of us has an individual chronotype, or variation of our internal body clock, that regulates our sleep-wake schedules. About 50 percent of this is genetics. But the other half is somewhat within our control.SOR_LiveLight_Healthy-MorningPerson.png

And while there is research to support the lifestyles of both early risers and those who stay up late, there are added boons to waking up with the sun. Here, four of them.

You’ll likely keep a healthier weight

If there’s a time and place for everything, blue light—which signals to the body that it’s time to be alert and awake—belongs in the morning.

According to a Northwestern Medicine study, people who had most of their exposure to even moderately bright light in the a.m. had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who exposed themselves to blue light later in the day.

“Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” said study senior author Phyllis C. Zee, M.D. Failing to take in enough sunlight early on can de-synchronize our internal body clocks, which can, in turn, affect metabolism and weight.

Just 20 to 30 minutes of morning light exposure, even on a cloudy day, is enough to affect BMI, too, the scientists concluded. A morning walk, run, or bike ride outdoors furthers your health benefits, starting your day off on a healthier foot.

You could be more proactive

A little more time in the morning means a little more time to prepare for a busy day ahead. That could be why, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, early risers tend to be more proactive than those who stay up late, agreeing with statements like “I feel in charge of making things happen.” A few quiet a.m. hours spent journaling, meditating, or even sending emails can set you ahead of the world before it wakes up.

You might be happier

Both older and younger people who wake up early tend to feel happier than those who have later bed times, according to research conducted at the University of Toronto.

It could be that going to bed later in the evening contributes to feelings of social jet lag—fatigue and overall malaise linked with staying up late but having to still live within the work constraints of a 9 to 5 schedule that society sets. This lack of energy could contribute to lower levels of positive emotions, researchers concluded. 

You’ll likely be able to fall asleep more easily

The longer you are awake, the more your drive to sleep sets in, so it’s only natural that those of us who wake up closer to dawn would have an easier time falling asleep. While we’re awake, the body creates a chemical called adenosine, that works to make us sleepy.

But a study published in the journal Nature also found that only 20 percent of people who identified as “morning people” suffered from insomnia, versus 40 percent of those who said they were “night owls.”

To find sleep easily, follow the opposite of your morning routine and block out sources of blue light. Come evening, this light—emitted from our computers, iPhones, and tablets—can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, disrupting overall sleep quality.



Sources: PLOS OneHarvard Business Review; Journal of Applied Social Psychology; Emotion; Nature

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