The lark advantage: why naturally early risers are happier than night owls


Name: The lark advantage.

Age: Suspected for years, but recently ratified.

Appearance: Happy, sprightly, ready to go.

Ugh, what’s this rubbish now? Hello, friend! If you might be so kind, could you tell me what time you woke up on this wonderful day?

I don’t know, 10am? Too early, anyway. Well, old chum, have you ever considered getting up at the crack of dawn?

Bog off. Now, now, there’s no need to be grumpy about it. What if I told you that scientists have discovered that people who get up earlier in the morning tend to be happier and better protected against depression?

Really? What time did you get up today? Why, I was wide awake at 5am, and I have to say that …

Bog off. But there is scientific evidence backing this up. Jessica O’Loughlin, the lead author of a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, asked more than 450,000 middle-aged people about their waking preferences. Those who woke up earliest tended to report lower instances of depression and anxiety.

Why? Because they don’t fight nature by deviating from natural waking patterns, silly! Meanwhile, those of you who stay up late tend to feel simply awful the next day. It’s a form of jet lag, and it can make you unhappy.

Well, this is depressing. Of course it is! You get up too late.

You’re not going to go away until I wake up earlier, are you? Nope.

Fine, then how do I do it? You can’t.

What? The time you wake up every morning is baked into your DNA. The University of Exeter discovered 351 genetic variants that determined waking time. Those with early-riser genetic profiles were 8% less depressed than others.

I hate this. I woke up at five o’clock this morning! Five o’clock! Wheeeee!

Why did you wake up so early? I’ve got young children! They won’t let me sleep any later! The other day I was awake at half past four. Imagine!

Do you wish you could sleep later? So badly! My eye has been involuntarily twitching for 18 months now. Can we swap?


Do say: “Morning people are generally happier people.”

Don’t say: “Which is exactly why they’re so annoying.”