Hate sleeping in? You’re in luck: research says being an early riser is much better for your health.
By: Jenn Sinrich/Mens Health
Do you wake up in the morning at 6:30 a.m. on the dot, excited to start your day? Do you feel like you get your best work done right when you get to the office? When your friends bitch and moan about not being able to sleep in, do you not understand what they’re talking about? You are a rare breed, my friend. You are a morning person.
Lucky for you, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that your early rising habit is beneficial to your quality of life. Here are some science-backed reasons why it’s better to be a morning person (and if you’re a night owl, here are a few reasons why you should start setting your alarm clock for an hour earlier.)
There’s a reason why people say breakfast is the most important meal: not only does it get your metabolism going, which is beneficial for overall weight loss, but it also gives your body and brain vital nutrients to help you perform throughout the day.
“Eating a hearty breakfast with protein can help build dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control your brain’s pleasure centers and balances out the stress hormone cortisol,” explains Brandon Mentore, strength and conditioning coach, functional medicine practitioner and sports nutritionist. That’s not the case for night owls, who are more likely to grab a donut on-the-go — or worse, skip breakfast entirely.
During these early morning hours, your body is in prime condition for movement. “Your body produces more testosterone in the morning and these elevated levels can help support muscle repair and growth,” says Robert S. Herbst, a weight loss and wellness coach and powerlifter.
Herbst says that moderate-intensity exercises like cardio are best for this time of day. “If one is going to lift heavy weights, it is better to save it for later in the day when the body’s core temperature is elevated and joints and tendons are warmed up,” he adds.
Additionally, when you’re up early enough to see the sun rise, you’re exposed to far more sunlight throughout your entire day. “The importance of natural morning light has been backed by science,” says Mentore. “One study out of Northwestern Medicine showed that the timing, intensity, and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight: people who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day.”
Plus, exposure to natural light has been linked to increased workplace performance and an overall better mood.
If you’re getting a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, waking up early helps get your body in sync with your natural sleep patterns. “Our circadian rhythm naturally encourages our body to calm down at dusk, sleep when it’s dark and awake when the sun comes up,” says Chris Brantner, the founder of the sleep research site SleepZoo. “So if you’re getting out of bed early on a regular basis and getting to bed early as well, your body is likely more in tune with its natural evolutionary processes.”
If you’re a night owl, you might postpone important tasks for later in the evening. But morning people know that they have to turn in at a certain hour, so they’re awake and energized for the day ahead of them. This often leads them to be better prioritizers, according to a 2008 study assessing the work habits of night owls vs. early risers.
“There seems to be a correlation with waking up early and getting things done,” says Brantner. “Perhaps this is also because you’re more likely to have gotten longer sleep and be energized and ready to go!”
If you like to sleep in, you probably attribute your good mood to getting a few extra minutes of shut-eye. But researchers at RWTH Aachen University in Germany found that night owls are actually at an increased risk for depression (all of that late-night Googling isn’t good for anyone’s mental health).
Brantner says that lack of sleep and disrupted sleep cycles have also been linked to depression. “Sleep deprivation can lead to depression which can lead to more sleep deprivation which can lead to more depression… it’s a vicious cycle.”
Setting your alarm clock for an hour or two earlier might also help you climb up the career ladder. One study conducted by a professor at the University of Education in Heidelbergfound that employees who perform better in the mornings are better positioned for success in their career.
Don Vaughn, a neuroscientist and data consultant at Santa Clara UCLA, agrees, adding that the morning is the best time of day for our brains to focus before daily distractions take over. “Although we can do deep work in the evening, the morning holds an advantage that many of us are squandering,” he says.