IT’S ONE OF THOSE classic questions that you might ask someone to help them describe themselves: are you an early bird, or a night owl?
A new Canadian academic study has found that people who prefer to wake earlier in the day are healthier – and happier – than those who would rather socialise into the night.
The study undertaken at the University of Toronto studied two groups of adults – one aged between 17 and 38, the other between 59 and 79 – and found that, in both sets, people who got up earlier showed greater general happiness.
Each group filled out questionnaires about their general daily schedule, their emotional state, and their general feelings of healthiness.
“We found that older adults reported greater positive emotion than younger adults, and older adults were more likely to be morning-type people than younger adults,” lead author Renee Biss told LiveScience, crucially adding:
The ‘morningness’ was associated with greater happiness emotions in both age groups.
Several explanations are put forward for this – with the most likely one being ‘social jet lag’: the idea that younger people, or people who enjoy socialising later at night, develop a sleep cycle which is incompatible with the natural pattern of day and night.
This combines with the fact that many such people also have to attend work or school beginning at early hours – forcing them to get up early, and cut short their sleep, in order to go somewhere they don’t want to.
Both social obligations and antipathy towards work or education are likely to wane later in life – perhaps explaining why older adults are more likely to be generally happier than younger ones.
“Society’s expectations are far more organized around a morning-type person’s schedule,” Biss said, telling the Daily Telegraph:
An evening person who prefers to wake up at 11am will have a much more difficult time following the typical 9-to-5 schedule compared to a morning person who naturally likes to wake up around 7am.
This evening person may go through their week feeling tired and unhappy as a result.
Poll: Are you a night owl or an early bird?