Sorry Snoozers, Science Says You Are More Productive in the Early Morning. Here's Why. Here's why early morning routines are better for productivity and your mental health.

By John Rampton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What is more important to you: sleeping in and starting your workday later or waking up earlier and completing all your tasks? My guess is that you have already figured out whether you are a morning person or a night person by now. However, the secret to success for many people in business, sports, and art is to get up early.

For example, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson starts every day at 3:30 a.m., Apple, Tim Cook, rises at 3:45 a.m., Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck gets up at 4 a.m. In addition to Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Indra Nooyi, have been known to rise before sunrise.

The founding editor of mymorningroutine.com, Benjamin Spall, has interviewed hundreds of successful figures about their morning routines. "It's not a coincidence that all of these people these people have routines," he tells CNBC Make It.

But why exactly are they so productive in the morning? Well, let's find out.

Related: After Getting Up at 5 a.m. Every Day for a Month, I'm Less Stressed, More Productive, and Generally Happier

1. Mental health is better among early risers.

Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are less common among morning larks. Why? According to experts, it's all about sleep patterns and natural light.

Additionally, vitamin D has been shown to enhance mood. So it's no wonder the larks are happier in the morning.

Sure, daylight boosts vitamin D production, making larks more productive. However, for early risers, it is also the feeling of having the entire day ahead to accomplish whatever we had planned in advance.

Related: 10 Morning Routine Hacks for Happiness and Productivity

2. They tend to be more proactive.

According to Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, early birds do better in business.

"When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards," Randler told the Harvard Business Review of his research, first published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. "[T]hey tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They're proactive."

The reason this makes sense is that, in theory, early in the morning is when your brain is rested, your motivation is high, and you're less distracted. While a person's creativity is strongest at night, his or her productivity is strongest in the morning. It is possible that this is the reason why morning people tend to be promoted and win high-level jobs.

3. There is a greater level of physical activity among them.

Early birds are more likely to pick up hobbies that require moving around more during the day, as they have plenty of time to do so. It doesn't matter whether you are playing sports, taking long walks, or commuting to work. Exercise relieves stress, gives our brains a break, improves focus, and just makes us feel better. As we get more satisfied, we're more willing to take on challenges, which leads to an increase in productivity.

Researchers, however, suggest that morning larks aren't necessarily predisposed to be better at physical activity. The problem is also related to the fact that night owls don't have enough opportunities to exercise between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. when their energy peaks. In the evenings, for instance, outdoor activities become increasingly limited. This is another example of how nature is designed to benefit early risers.

4. The early birds eat healthier.

Obviously, early birds are no different from those who eat junk food later in the day. Yeah, I'm the first to admit that I can't resist the occasional pizza. When it comes to heavy foods at night, however, I usually refrain from eating them. The reason? I don't want my stomach to digest all night since I'm going to bed soon. As a result, I'll probably have a sleepless night.

It has been observed that diet choices are less favorable for night owls. When working at night, their energy levels can fluctuate wildly. To stay up and running, the body requires more fuel, which leads to unhealthy snacking or drinking. In the case of larks, this isn't a problem, since they sleep all night long.

5. Drug abuse and bad habits are less likely to occur in them.

Although evening types are often ill-mannered and drug-dependent, that does not imply they are always badly behaved. There is actually more creativity and intelligence among night owls.

However, early birds usually go to bed before 11 p.m. This makes them less vulnerable than night people to bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, and cheating.

There is evidence to support this assertion in a number of studies. Researchers found that those with evening work schedules consumed more alcohol than those with morning work schedules, based on a study of 537 individuals. According to data from a Finnish Twin Cohort of 676 adults, nighttime people are much more likely to smoke, less likely to quit, and more likely to develop nicotine dependence than morning people.

Due to the nightlife's conduciveness to drinking and infidelity, these findings are not entirely surprising.

6. They are conscientious, less showy, and more agreeable

Continuing from the previous point, drinking and smoking more are associated with the trait psychologists call "novelty seeking," or NS.

According to PhyscologyToday, NS is "a personality trait associated with an exploratory activity where someone seeks new and exciting stimulation and responds strongly from the surge of dopamine and adrenaline released when anyone has a novel experience."

There have been numerous studies linking night people with this "novelty-seeking" behavior. In addition, Randler and a colleague also examined the relationship between morningness and eveningness and temperament in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18. As far as rewards are concerned, evening types tend to be extravagant in their approach.

In general, morning people are more conscientious and less showy, which makes them more agreeable. Though not always helpful, agreeableness can help in the pursuit of success.

7. They have more time, clarity, and control.

Did you know that waking up just one hour earlier each morning would give you 15 additional days a year if you maintain your normal sleep pattern? Consequently, it is no secret that many successful people wake up early in order to have uninterrupted time to do their own thing.

Getting up early helps you get organized, think strategically, and plan. Additionally, many early risers report being more creative and inspired in the mornings.

The hours between 5 and 6 a.m. aren't when most people are awake. As a result, it's a terrific opportunity to work for yourself rather than for others. Moreover, you won't be distracted by texts, emails, or phone calls since social media has been halted. In the early morning, everything is quiet, and the world is at a standstill, giving you time to yourself. In the morning, productive people exercise, read, have breakfast, and map out their day. And it's also likely that you will encounter fewer distractions from your colleagues if you arrive first.

8. They procrastinate less.

According to a 1997 study authored by delay researcher Joseph Ferrari at DePaul, trait procrastinators call themselves "night people." According to Ferrari, procrastinating behaviors are associated with an evening preference. Based on six days of daily task records, it was found that evening people tend to be worse procrastinators.

An investigation of procrastination was conducted in 2008 by a research team that included Ferrari and reported in the Journal of General Psychology. They examined 50-year-old adults this time. It turned out that the earlier study was accurate. People who spend the night avoid tasks that need to be completed more often.

Research suggests that putting off tasks until nighttime may cost night people career success if they tend to delay tasks until the "last minute" before a deadline. This is particularly true at jobs requiring or requiring strong work ethics during the daytime.

9. Early birds rule the world.

The majority of stores, gyms, clinics, and everything else is open during the day, so early risers can better organize their schedules. The fact that we live in an era where most jobs are 9 to 5 -- leads to more opportunities to be successful and productive. I wonder if it's because less than 1% of people are genetically programmed to be night owls.

Additionally, when teammates and coworkers cooperate, they become more productive, and receiving feedback in a timely manner helps them establish work and personal boundaries. Just ensure you set personal and professional boundaries if you finish your work before sunset.

Side note: early in the morning was when I found the easiest to make money online. I was working at a full time job and started waking up at 5:30. Instead of going to the gym, I focused on side gigs, especially passive income side gigs that helped me to grow my passive income to over $45,000/month in 12 years. It didn't happen overnight but that extra 2.5 hours a day really added up.

The Downside of Being a Morning Person

While there are many research-based benefits listed above, there are some drawbacks to being a morning person.

Getting up early isn't for everyone.

It may not be possible for you to wake up early regardless of how strong your resolve is and how loud your alarms are. "Whether you're an early bird or a night owl, that's a genetic predisposition," sleep specialist Michael Breus told Fast Company. "There's only so much you're going to be able to do to try to change that." Early birds may be more productive during the workday, but your chronotype, which is your natural sleep habits, determines how productive you are during the day.

As a result, Breus suggests leaning into your chronotype rather than blindly following the habits of early birds, who constitute only 15% of the population. About 1 in 2 people have relatively "normal" sleeping habits; they function best when they don't stay up too late or wake up too early and wake up at the same time every day. Breus describes naturally late risers–about 20% of the population–as wolves, people who sometimes struggle to get up early but are more productive at night.

To put it another way, being ruthlessly productive doesn't mean being perfect. In fact, Warren Buffet, Alexis Ohanian, Aaron Levie, and Pharrell Williams all wake up after 10 a.m.

Simply put, if 4 a.m. seems unreasonably early to you, then adjusting your schedule won't make sense. Why? Because you'll probably lose sleep and be less productive as a result.

It is now well known that sleep deprivation is one of the main contributors to low productivity. In addition to impairing cognitive performance, sleep deprivation can lead to Alzheimer's disease and even shorten your lifespan.

Early birds have a harder time socializing.

It's no secret that night owls have a more vibrant social life and are more likely to be the focus of attention.

Aalto University's Talayeh Aledavood reveals an unexpected characteristic of larks. The researchers gave 1,000 volunteers phones with an app that measures their social activity. All the connections between the volunteers were shown as a network. The more links a person has, the more popular he or she is.

As it turns out, night owls had significantly more connections. Their communication would be more frequent, and they would organize gatherings more frequently. Even better, night owls have a habit of finding other owls quickly. Aledavood was surprised to find larks lacking in this respect. The majority of their social media time was spent alone since their schedules centered more around the morning and early afternoon.

The study was the first to confirm that night owls have stronger and bigger social networks, as Aledavood herself stated. While morning larks rule the working world, owls rule the social world.

Getting up earlier may be detrimental to your life.

Are you a late sleeper? It's possible that you're smarter than your early-bird peers.

The Daily Mail reports that people who sleep in, tend to be smarter than those who wake up early.

In addition, late risers are more energetic.

Participants slept and awoke according to their normal schedules. A variety of tests were given to them throughout the day. As soon as participants awoke, they all performed well on their tasks. Despite spending the same amount of time awake as the early birds, after 10 hours, the night owls performed significantly better.

Dr. Philippe Peigneux, of the University of Liege in Belgium, said: 'During the evening session, evening types were less sleepy and tended to perform faster than morning types.'

Further, a study conducted by the University of Westminster found that those who rise earlier have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Also, Lisa Artis, from the Sleep Council says there's no evidence that waking up early gives you an advantage. "While a minority may be part of the 'sleepless elite,' the majority are probably well versed at masking the signs of exhaustion."

"In today's busy world, we're all very eager to believe that sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity, but in reality, it's likely to have the opposite effect," she explains. "Natural sleep has restorative functions -- it detoxes the neurotoxic waste that accumulates when you're awake. Too little sleep, and this waste remains. Lack of sleep can be dangerous in other ways: it is one of the main contributors to burnout in top business leaders."

Your Wake-Up Time Doesn't Always Matter

To be honest, you'll be more productive in the morning if aligns with your circadian rhythms. That means if you're more of a night owl, then you won't be productive bright and early. So, instead of being concerned about when you wake up, focus on getting a successful night's sleep.

Make sure you get eight and a half hours of sleep every night.

In order to maximize your productivity throughout the day, sleep scientist Daniel Gartenberg recommends getting eight and a half hours of sleep each night.

You should be asleep by 7:30 p.m. if you plan to set your alarm a few hours earlier. Perhaps that's possible for you. But it's unattainable for parents with nine-to-five jobs. Moreover, it's going to be hard to keep up with your social life even if you don't have children.

In other words, if you focus more on getting adequate sleep, you'll wake up with a clear mind and be more competitive than the person who stayed at the office until 9 p.m., went to bed at 11 p.m., and woke up at 4 a.m.

At night, limit exposure to blue light.

The digital world has made it nearly impossible to get to bed early in the past few years, according to research. All the LED lights in the house, blue screens on smartphones, and all the lights in the house on at 11 p.m. confuse the body into thinking it's daylight.

Our bodies haven't evolved much since prehistoric times when sunlight was the source of our lives. Our wake-up and sleep times were dictated by the sun. We kept functioning until our bodies got near exhaustion because technology advances faster than evolution.

After 8 p.m., limit your screen time and only turn on the lights that are necessary. It won't take long for you to re-adjust when you keep your body's usual rhythm.

Be sure to listen to your body.

Throughout the day, you probably experience periods of increased alertness and periods of low energy. You have a "chronotype," or personal circadian rhythm, that determines this pattern. Although they tend to run in families, they vary from person to person.

In most cases, people fall into one of two categories:

  • Early birds. Some research suggests that an early bird's body clock may run slightly faster than 24 hours if they have the most energy first thing in the day.
  • Night owls. Studies suggest that evening people have slower body clocks than those who are awake during the day. You'll have difficulty waking up in the morning and feeling alert. Towards the end of the day, like 11 p.m., you'll have the most energy.

Chronotypes aren't set in stone, however. As we age, our circadian rhythms change. Due to the body clock shift during adolescence, for example, teens want to sleep longer in the morning and later into the night.

Moreover, depending on your work schedule or school schedule, you may have to change your sleep habits.

It's possible to change your circadian rhythm yourself. But make sure to do it slowly. For instance, during the week, wake up 15 minutes earlier every day.

Related: How to Actually Wake Up Early for People Who Aren't Early Birds

Engage in more physical activity.

Anybody who's ever tried the age-old advice will confirm that it works. You will be more likely to get to sleep earlier and sleep better if you do more physical activity during the day.

Spend some time in the park with your family, pets, or friends, or engage in some sports activities, gardening, or hiking. Also, walking can often suffice.

Be consistent with your hours.

Commit to your sleep schedule once you find one that works for you.

There is no difference between getting up early and sleeping early, according to a 2017 Harvard study. Keeping a consistent schedule is the most important thing.

Over a month, researchers studied the sleeping habits of 61 students and correlated their academic performance with their habits. In contrast to students who slept and woke up at the same time every day, those who had irregular hours had worse grades.

Discuss your sleep schedule with your boss if it doesn't align with your work hours since many businesses are adjusting office hours to accommodate their employees' internal clocks. If you're in a leadership position, then you can set your own hours.

Avoid hitting the snooze button.

"By dozing off for those extra minutes, we're preparing our bodies for another sleep cycle, which is then quickly interrupted -- causing us to feel fatigued for the rest of the day that lies ahead," sleep expert Neil Robinson said in an interview with The Independent.

Image Credit: Ruslan Zzaebok; Pexels

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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