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Is an Early Riser Really Wiser? Successful Sleep Habits

By Martha Michael

The biological clock you hear ticking may be affecting your paycheck. Your chronotype, or your circadian rhythm, which determines when your body tends to sleep, may be a factor in your achievement.

Waking up to Study Findings

An article in the Harvard Business Review says people who wake up early have greater career success, among other things. Night owls aren’t as proactive, says Christopher Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany.

A study surveying 367 college students shows that individuals with energy levels that peak in the morning are more likely to make improvements and effect change in their lives. Responses from students in the study include answers to questions about the time of day they feel energetic and also about their actions that follow.

“A higher percentage of the morning people agreed with statements that indicate proactivity, such as ‘I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself’ and ‘I feel in charge of making things happen,’” Randler says.

Facts about “night owls” in the article include Randler’s findings that they’re smarter, more creative, have a better sense of humor and are more outgoing than morning people. Though it sounds like better news if you’re a night person, advantages to being a morning person are far-reaching, according to the study.

Randler says that people who are at their best early in the day are “more in sync with corporate schedules.” His research shows they tend to have higher grades and get better jobs when they get out of college. Proactivity is the key quality Randler comes back to consistently.

Turning Back the Clock

There’s not a lot you can do to change it, Randler says, because 50 percent of your chronotype comes from your genes. Randler says early risers naturally get up early on non-workdays, while night owls tend to sleep in any time they can.

In an article in Fast Company Magazine, author Sarah Peterson suggests ways to turn into a morning person if it doesn’t come naturally.

“You know that waking up early is one of the best ways to be more productive,” Peterson says. “You know that many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are early risers. Yet no matter how hard you try, you can't seem to stop hitting snooze.”

There are a number of steps you can take, she says:

  • Start by getting up just one minute earlier each day
  • Set up small wins to motivate yourself
  • Let peer pressure work -- set meetings you can’t miss
  • Create an environment that invites you to get up early
  • Analyze what's keeping you from getting up
  • Track your progress 

Even if you take pride in being the smart, witty, creative night person, your success level may just count on your ability to fight your tendencies. It would seem, based on these findings, that when you snooze, you really do lose.


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