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September 16, 2016
THERE’S MORE TO being a morning person than simply waking up early. The average wake-up time for Americans is around 6:30 am, but most wouldn’t describe themselves as a morning person.
An early bird, sometimes called a morning lark, makes it a point to go to bed early and wake up early because that’s their preferred routine, not because they have to. Night owls that have to get up early for work or school tend to drag themselves out of bed after hitting the snooze three times, then guzzle coffee in order to slog through the first few hours of the morning in a zombie-like state. Meanwhile, the early riser seems perfectly alert, functional, and downright chipper. How do they do it? And is it worth the effort?
Some people are natural-born early birds, while others are naturally predisposed to be night owls. These tendencies, called chronotypes, are based on a person’s circadian rhythm, our 24-hour biological clocks. Chronotypes are believed to be genetic, so they tend to run in families. If you lived alone on an island, your sleep schedule wouldn’t matter, but in reality, most of us have to synchronize our schedules with those of others, like our family and employers. While you can’t actually change your chronotype, with some work and patience, it is possible to condition yourself to get better at being an early riser.
It seems that today’s society is set up in the morning person’s favor. Most work shifts and school schedules start early, requiring people to be alert and on point by 8 or 9 am. We have expressions like “the early bird gets the worm,” suggesting that people who wake early are more productive than those who sleep in. While that’s not necessarily true, it’s no secret that morning people have an easier time dealing with the typical daytime schedule.
A series of studies has revealed some surprising facts about the perks of being an early riser. Morning-type people tend to be happier than night owls, and are at a lower risk for depression. Among college students, early birds tend to have a higher grade point average than their night-type counterparts, sometimes by as much as a full point. Early risers also tend to be the most socially conscientious of the chronotypes.
There are several ways to adjust your body’s sleep schedule, essentially tricking yourself into become a morning person.