Night Owls May Suffer from ‘Social Jet Lag’



People who prefer to wake up earlier lead happier and healthier lives than their night owl

People who prefer to wake up earlier lead happier and healthier lives than their night owl counterparts, according to a new study.

The study’s lead author Renée Biss, a PhD student with the University of Toronto’s department of psychology and the Rotman Research Institute, says morning people are more likely to possess greater positive emotion.

The study, published in the journal Emotion, involved two groups of adults: one younger group of 435 people between the ages of 17 to 38 and an older group with 297 participants between the ages of 59 to 79. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their sleeping routines, emotional state, overall health, and preferred time of day.

“We collected younger and older adults’ responses as they came in to our lab to participate in various aging and cognition research studies over a two year period,” Biss said.

Findings indicate that older adults are more likely to be earlier risers. However, among both younger and older adults, those who wake earlier report greater levels of happiness than their peers.

The study refers to the phenomenon of “social jet lag.” The lower levels of positive energy can be attributed to the biological clocks of late sleepers not being aligned with the average 9-to-5 clock set by societal standards.

A night person will find themselves feeling tired throughout the day, leading to lower levels of positivity.

“Work or school obligations often force evening people to wake up hours earlier than they would naturally prefer. As a result, they get reduced, poorer quality sleep during the work week,” Biss said. “This could leave them less cheerful and energetic relative to morning people who are free to wake up at their naturally preferred time every day.”

The study found most participants over the age of 60 considered themselves to be morning people. On the other side of the spectrum, 93 percent of the younger adult group did not consider themselves to be morning people.

“Research on aging and sleep suggests that earlier wake times in older adulthood are tied to age-related changes in the amount and timing of different hormones in the brain,” Biss said. “Thus, our research suggests that these changes in sleeping and waking habits may actually be associated with positive emotional consequences for older adults.”