Why morning people are happier

Rise and shine istockphoto

iStockphoto
(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Morning people seem to have an edge on the rest of us (see related post: How to change your life before breakfast). The early hours are a great time for getting things done. Even more unfair? New research from the University of Toronto, which looked at adults' sleeping habits, finds that morning people are happier and more energetic, too. People who naturally rise around 7 a.m. (even without the alarm clock) have a 19-25 percent boost in "positive effect" (according to a Prevention article on the topic) versus those who prefer to get out of bed around 10 a.m.

I think there are two reasons that morning people are happier. First, our world is set up to reward people who get out of bed in the early hours. Traditional workplaces require people to be up and alert at 8 or 9 in the morning. People who are naturally perky at that time will be seen as ambitious and competent. They'll get promoted. They'll earn more money. Is it surprising that they'd be happier than someone who could be enormously creative from midnight to 2 a.m. -- but never gets the chance because he has to leave for work at 7?

As a bit of a night owl myself, I think this is unjust. I wish more organizations had flexible hours, with just a few common core hours (say, 11-3) for meeting-scheduling purposes. But the second reason is less about social tradition and is more inherent in the nature of the human mind. If you're up and alert early, you can score wins early. You can exercise and get the endorphins pumping. You can crank out something creative (an essay, a scene in a novel). You can solve a big business problem, or do something fun like a family field trip if your kids are up with the sun.

in other words, win once and you feel like a winner, which makes you more likely to win again in the various games of life you control. On a high from a workout, you make that difficult sales call and score a client no one thought you could get. On a roll from cranking out a blog post, you think of yourself as a good writer -- and pitch a new publication in that frame of mind. Score your big wins at 8 p.m., and there's just less time to keep winning (particularly if you have to go to bed to get up for work or with little ones).

Some people are committed night owls. But many of us could cross over to the lark side if we tried. This research shows that there might be psychic rewards for doing so. While it doesn't sound fun to me to get up at 6 a.m., I do know that running and focused writing make me happy, and these things are more likely to happen if they happen before my inbox turns vicious by 10:30 a.m.

Do you think morning people are happier? Have you ever tried to get up earlier to get things done?

Comments