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William Blake wrote, “Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
Jonathan Swift wrote. “I never knew a man come to greatness or eminence who lay abed late in the morning.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
For centuries, philosophers have written about the advantages of rising early. However, are early risers really more productive than late risers? Research seems to confirm it, and what’s more, early birds tend to be healthier overall than their night owl compatriots.
First, what is a morning person? The term is informally defined as someone who feels awake and full of energy in the mornings. Morning people also tend to wake up naturally around the same time each day, by 7 a.m. or earlier.
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Research shows that early risers are more productive at work, get better grades and are healthier in mind and body. One theory is that getting up early gives you more time to prepare for the day.
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, work supervisors evaluated morning workers as more conscientious than those who start work later. These findings remained constant even after researchers accounted for total work hours and objective job performance reports.
A study conducted in 2013 of students at five German high schools found that late risers had lower grades than morning people, even after researchers accounted for factors such as cognitive abilities and their motivation to do well in school. Another study conducted by the University of North Texas in Denton of more than 800 college students found that early risers had a GPA that was a full point higher – 3.5 as compared with 2.5 — than their night owl peers.
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Study author Daniel J. Taylor theorized that early bird students find it easier get to classes on time and to study before later classes. He added that students who go to bed earlier might be less likely to drink excessively or to participate in other activities that could negatively affect their academic performance.
Whether or not you are an early or late riser can also affect your body weight, according to research by Northwestern University. The study, which found that early risers have a lower body mass index (BMI) than late risers, connected this finding with the body’s dependence on the circadian rhythm. Lead researcher Phyllis C. Zee concluded that if we do not get enough light at the appropriate times of day, our body clock could be affected, leading to an altered metabolism and weight gain.
Early risers also tend to be more consistent in adhering to an exercise regime, according to the American Council on Exercise. Most studies indicate that people who exercise in the morning set and maintain more rigorous workout schedules.
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An altered body clock can even affect your driving ability. Spanish researchers found that night owls taking an 8 a.m. driving test performed worse than they did on the same test given at 8 p.m. Early risers, on the other hand, had consistently better scores at both times.
An interesting aspect of these and other studies about early risers is that the findings do not have to do with the amount of sleep we get, but instead with when we sleep. Our bodies are designed to sleep with a natural circadian rhythm that is connected with sunlight and darkness. To put it simply, most people who adjust to this cycle sleep better.
Research by Harvard University suggests that night owls can reset their circadian rhythm by going outside into the daylight early in the morning. If you are a late riser, one way to work your way into an earlier wake-up time is to get up a half-hour earlier for three days and then to repeat the process with another 30 minutes adjustment.
If you need more of an inducement to “get up and at ‘em” earlier, research indicates that early risers are happier than night owls. According to a University of Toronto study of more than 700 adults, morning people reported up to 25 percent higher feelings of cheerfulness, happiness and alertness than their night owl counterparts did. The study linked early exposure to daylight to more energy and a reduced risk of depression.
Convinced? Here are some other tips to move to more of an early bird lifestyle:
- Sleep in a quiet, dark room for effective sleep. Turn off electronic screens 30 to 60 minutes before you get in bed.
- Get everything you will need in the morning – such as clothes and lunch — together before you go to bed. Shortening your morning to-do list makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning.
- Maintain a regular evening routine that will let your mind and body know it is time for sleep.
- Be consistent by setting your alarm clock for the same time every morning — weekdays and weekends.
- Move the alarm clock away from the bed so that you must get out of bed to reach it. Set it to play a pleasing tone and skip the snooze button once and for all.
- Open your curtains and shades to let in as much light as possible.
- Drink a glass of water soon after rising. Dehydration causes fatigue. If you are groggy when you wake up, you may need water, not more sleep.
- Eat breakfast for the energy and brain food it provides.
The bottom line is your grandmother was right. Early birds do get the worm. Why not make getting up a half hour earlier or more one of your New Year’s Resolutions?
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