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Early birds

Early birds are healthier and happier than night owls, study finds

Friday, February 08, 2013 by: Michael Ravensthorpe
Tags: early birds, night owls, happiness

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(NaturalNews) Several peer-reviewed studies have established that night owls tend to be more creative and independent-minded than early birds - a phenomenon that scientists have linked to the adaptation of living 'outside the norm.' However, according to scientists at the University of Toronto, early birds have the biggest reason to celebrate: Morning people tend to be healthier and far more content with their lives than evening people.

The scientists asked 435 younger volunteers between the ages of 17 to 38, and 297 older volunteers between the ages of 59 to 79, to complete a questionnaire about their preferred times of day and their general happiness and healthiness levels. The results showed that only seven percent of the younger volunteers were morning people, versus 93 percent of the older volunteers. Moreover, volunteers who considered themselves morning people - of either age group - reported feeling far healthier and more positive than the evening people.

"[M]orning-type people reported feeling happier than evening type people, whether they were young or old, and our results suggest the shift towards morningness with age may have positive emotional benefits," said the study's leader, Renee Biss.

"One reason why 'early risers' may be happier is because their biological clocks are more in line with societal expectations about when someone should wake up and go to sleep," she added. "An evening person who prefers to wake up at 11:00 a.m. will have a much more difficult time following the typical nine-to-five schedule compared to a morning person who naturally likes to wake up around 7:00 a.m."

But according to Ms. Biss, there is hope for unhappy night owls - they simply need to take small measures to improve their biological clock:

"One way to do it is to increase your natural light exposure early in the morning, and to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier," she said. "It's easiest if you have a consistent schedule, to make sure you are waking up at the same time every day."

The serotonin question

While the University of Toronto scientists concluded that social issues were the primary reason behind the late risers-low moods connection, there is another reason to consider: Limited exposure to daylight.

An individual who rises at 11 a.m. or later will be exposed to far less daylight (often considerably so, depending on their geographical location) than an individual who rises at 7 a.m. Exposure to daylight encourages the pineal gland to produce more serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the regulation of mood. Since a lack of serotonin is linked to depression and anxiety, it is logical that individuals who receive fewer (or interrupted) amounts of it will suffer from the same.

Therefore, unless doing so is simply unavoidable (such as if you work night shifts), it's a great idea to consistently rise at dawn to ensure that your serotonin-melatonin cycles are balanced. While it might be a challenge to break old habits at first, enjoying a sleeping pattern that is in accord with nature will reap long-term benefits that considerably outweigh the stress of the transition.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk
http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2006/12/13/1810399.htm
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248.php

About the author:
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.
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