If you spend the first part of your day hitting the snooze button and snuggling deeper under the covers, it could be affecting your mood. Early risers tend to be happier and healthier than those who prefer to sleep late, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers looked at data from almost 700,000 individuals and identified 351 genetic factors that influence whether one prefers mornings or evenings; the genes associated with “morningness” were also associated with better mental health. Study co-author Michael Weedon, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Exeter Medical School, speculates that the connection has to do with our corporate culture.
“Morning people are better aligned with a 9-to-5 type society,” he says. “Evening people may struggle to get up and get to work.”
Traditional work hours also force night owls to fight their natural body clocks, which can lead to higher levels of mental health issues, including depression. A 2018 study found those who struggled to get up in the morning were more likely to have early deaths than early risers.
A rise-and-shine personality is also associated with other mood-boosting behaviors:
The earlier you wake up, the more likely you are to be active and maintain a regular exercise schedule — and exercise provides a big happiness boost. Early birds get more exercise than late sleepers; night owls were also more apt to find excuses to skip a workout, according to research published in the journal SLEEP.
Night owls prefer to go to bed and wake up two hours later than early birds, according to Dr. Nitun Verma, sleep-medicine specialist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
“So, while it’s nice to wake an hour early and get some exercise before work, for a night owl, it feels more like waking up three hours early,” Verma explains. “[If you want to work out in the morning] it’ll be ideal to exercise outside … the morning light exposure will make mornings easier.”
Several studies have found a healthy diet decreases the odds of developing depression. The longer you stay in bed in the morning, the less time you’ll have to make a nutritious breakfast. Research published in the journal Appetite found late sleepers consumed almost 250 more calories per day and consumed twice as much fast food as early risers. Those who woke up early not only ate healthier breakfasts, they also made healthier food choices throughout the day, according to a separate study.
If you spent most of the night tossing and turning, you’re bound to be grumpy in the morning and restless slumber is more common among late risers. Early risers tend to sleep better, have more regular sleep patterns and experience less daytime sleepiness than those who sleep late, according to 2019 research published in the journal SLEEP.
Although a plethora of research shows waking up earlier could make you happier, Weedon doesn’t suggest setting the alarm and forcing yourself to wake up with the sun.
“Our study reinforces the idea there is an innate difference in body clocks and morning and evening preference which could inform public policy about healthy working hours and flexibility,” he says. “I think it’s more about allowing people to be flexible and follow their own body clocks where possible.”