It’s a phrase fitness enthusiasts like to wear like a badge of honour: “early bird gets the worm.” For those who hit the pavement in running gear or step foot in the gym while the rest of the world is seemingly fast asleep, the sense of accomplishment is hard to shake. In fact, to complete a workout before the work day has even commenced is to stroll into the office with the smug expression of someone committed to their fitness goals, protein shaker in hand, rattling it with enthusiasm so as to ensure everyone knows we got it done.
Of course, not everyone is a morning person. For many, simply getting out of bed in the morning requires copious amounts of caffeine and even then, we need an hour or three before we can function as a normal human being. If you’ve never given much thought to your morning or nighttime routines though, perhaps it’s time to start. According to a new study, early birds are happier than night owls as research suggests that aside from getting out in the daylight more and having better sleep, a large part of their happy mood is derived from the fact that they have more support from friends and family.
The study, conducted by academics from the University of Warsaw, analysed 1,067 adults aged 18 to 55. Participants were first given a questionnaire to measure their preferred time of day. Other questionnaires measured their levels of satisfaction, recent emotions and sense of wellbeing. The final test looked at perceived levels of social support with questions like: “I can talk about my problems with my friends” and “My family really tries to help me.” Aside from the fact that less natural light and more artificial light can impact mood, it was found insufficient sleep can also impact wellbeing.
As the study found, due to the routines of night owls that are often at odds with those of work and school schedules, it’s easy for them to then feel less social support. When your sleeping patterns don’t exactly align with friends and family, organising social activities around them becomes problematic and can be a difficult thing to overcome. The study also suggests that such routines can also be perceived as lazy or rude, leading night owls to receive less support from others.
As the study’s authors explained, there is a strong correlation between morning-ness and wellbeing. “Social support is a strong predictor of health and wellbeing and the latter was confirmed in our present study.”
They added, “In addition, individuals who receive greater support are more satisfied with their social relationships and consequently have better wellbeing.” It was also found that “a higher level of perceived social support may predict better sleep quality and lower risk of sleep complaints.”
Ultimately, the study’s authors suggest that for those who have a night owl in their life, it’s important not to judge too harshly. As lead author Joanna Gorgol wrote in the Journal of Sleep Research,“Neither type of chronotype is worse or better, it’s just that some people have a natural preference for going o bed and waking up early, while others prefer a late daily schedule.”