Fashion yourself an early-bird-gets-the-worm type? Or maybe you’re better around the 10 p.m. hour—brain firing on all levels, energy high, you’re ready to go.
But have you ever connected your happiness to your waking inclination? Because a new study shows that those who are bright-eyed and ready to go early in the morning are happier people. This conclusion came from a University of Toronto study which examined more than 700 people who fell into one of two age groups: 17-38 and 59-79 years of age. After questioning them about the time of day they get up and how they feel, the study concluded that morning types are happy types. Here Renee Biss, the researcher behind the study, fills us in.
Q: What’s the conventional thinking about early risers, night owls and happiness?
A: Past research has shown that morning-type individuals are happier than evening people. However, this research was limited because it was only conducted in people under 30 years old. And morning types are actually quite rare among young adults. There are only seven per cent in our sample, so we were interested in whether the same association between mood and morningness would hold for adults over the age of 60 years.
Q: The term “social jet lag” came up in your study—what does that mean?
A: “Social jet lag” means night owls may have a natural biological clock that’s out of sync with society’s expectations about when you should wake up and go to sleep. A 9-to-5 schedule is harder to follow for an evening person who would prefer to wake up at 11:00 am. But this type of schedule is easy for a morning-type person who likes to wake up at 7:00 am. That means this evening person is more likely to go through their week feeling tired and unhappy compared to a morning person who is able to rise for work or school at the same time that their body would naturally wake.
Q: So what’s the relationship between age/early risers/night owls and happiness?
A: The proportion of early risers versus night owls changes quite a bit as people age. Past research shows that the proportion of evening types reaches a peak around age 20 and then there is a shift towards morningness during adulthood. So by the age of 60, the majority of individuals are morning types. Our study is the first to demonstrate a link between these two aging effects: greater morningness tendencies among older adults may partially contribute to their better moods.
Q: What can we take from this study and apply to their lives?
A: It’s possible that shifts towards morningness can have positive emotional consequences, although our study was correlational so future research will have to establish whether there is a causal link.
Another take away message is to not fight the earlier wake times that naturally come with age for most people, as these morningness tendencies are associated with feeling happier!
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