We've heard the saying 'the early bird catches the worm' – but is this notion that morning people are more productive or successful than night owls backed by evidence? Actually, yes. And there's also evidence that earlier risers may be healthier, have a lower BMI and maintain weight loss better than night owls.
Some of us are morning larks and others are more night owls. According to the charity Sleep Foundation, technically speaking being a lark or an owl is not necessarily better than the other in a general sense. But, our society does naturally work better for morning people. We get up early to start work by 8/9am and finish early evening, ready to wind down and get to bed early. With this schedule, waking early and getting to bed early is going to benefit your productivity. The poor night owl does have more of a daily slog ahead of them it would seem.
These societal expectations may then explain why morning people have a better time of it when it comes to productivity, happiness, exercise habits and weight management.
Some research has found that people who consider themselves early birds are more likely to have a lower BMI, than those who consider themselves night owls . However, the exact reason for this is not clear, as cause and effect can't be determined. But what these findings do show is a link between being a morning person and having a lower BMI.
Further studies in this area have shown that people who get more light exposure earlier in the day, have a lower BMI than those who get it later in the day . This is independent of the individual's sleep duration or timings. Such findings are very interesting, as the suggestion is that light exposure itself is the direct reason for better weight control, potentially because more light earlier in the day sits in better with our natural circadian rhythm.
There is also research that shows morning people may maintain their weight loss more successfully than people who are more naturally night owls . The findings of all of these studies suggest that morning larks have an easier time with weight management than night owls.
Exactly why this is the case isn't completely clear, but it's likely related to our natural circadian rhythm, which can affect our digestion and energy levels. This all then impacts on other factors like the best time of day to eat bigger meals, when you get your exercise in due to energy levels and quality of sleep – all of which can impact weight. It makes sense that people who wake earlier and get their workout in early, are less likely to miss their exercise than someone who leaves it until later in the day. Simply because life happens and something may get in the way to prevent you from completing your workout, but if you get it out of the way earlier, it's done!
It does seem like there are benefits to being a morning person. This is not to say that night owls can't be happy, healthy, productive and lose weight successfully – more that there may be a few more obstacles in their way due to the schedule society expects us to work to. While our preference for early morning starts or lie-ins is largely genetic, there are things you can try if you want to switch yourself to be more of an early riser. The Sleep Foundation suggests giving the following a try when aiming to make the shift from night owl to morning lark.
While some of us are born larks and others owls, there may be some benefit to being more of an early riser (and early to bed!). Our society is geared up so that getting up and powering on with your day with an early start is most beneficial – and this can be a challenge for natural night owls. But the great news is, there are techniques you can use to make rising early and having more energy earlier in the day, easier. If you think you'd benefit, give it a try and see how you feel!
Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.