Morning people happier than night owls, says study

Whether or not it makes you healthy, wealthy or wise, being an early riser just might increase your happiness, according to a University of Toronto study. Researchers found that morning people report being happier than night owls.

Out of 435 adults aged 17 to 38, and 297 older adults between the ages of 59 and 79, those who claimed to favour mornings over evenings also reported higher levels of happiness in a questionnaire. The results were published this month in the journal Emotion.

"Morningness was associated with greater experience of positive emotions," says study researcher and member of the University of Toronto's Hasher Aging and Cognition Lab, Renee Biss, "And this is true both for younger adults and for older adults."

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The older group, however, had many more morning people in its midst. While only seven per cent of their younger sample reported being morning lovers, among the older group the composition was reversed, with the night owls making up a mere seven per cent of that population.

"We know from past research that older adults are more likely to be morning types than younger adults. And we also know that people report feeling happier in their senior years," says Biss.

"What our results suggest is that the increasing morningness with age might partially explain why older people are happier than younger people."

There are, of course, many other factors involved that contribute to our feelings of happiness or well-being. In this study, researchers found that the morning preference accounted for approximately four or five per cent of the variation in happiness among participants.

The reasons might lie in night owls feeling the brunt of "social jetlag" -- sleep deprivation rooted in the disconnect between our biological clock and our social routines.

"A nine-to-five schedule's harder to follow for someone who wants to wake up at 11, than someone who wants to wake up at seven," says Biss. "What ends up happening, is that an evening person will be forced to wake up early throughout the week."

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In fact, Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Behaviour and Sleep Laboratory at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, says that in Canada, 25 per cent of adults and up to 80 per cent of adolescents are sleep deprived.

And according to a Statistics Canada sleep study, based on 2005 data from over 19,500 Canadians, those getting the least amount of sleep are men, people who work full-time or do shift work, those who have higher incomes and people with families.

With sleep deprivation linked to all sorts of bad things, including unhealthy eating and drinking habits, maybe it's time to embrace the morning.

You might be happy you did.