As we age, regular activity and an early alarm clock can spell happiness

As we age, regular activity and an early alarm clock can spell happiness

Sleeping in seems like the ticket to happiness. An alarm clock’s wailing, after all, is a sound many of us grow to loathe. All we ask for is just five more minutes, a half-hour, maybe an hour longer in bed. Waking up can be a terrible way to start the day.

Early risers, however, might just be the happiest folks among us.

A study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that older adults who regularly woke up early and then stayed busy throughout the day were happier than others who didn’t. They also scored higher on cognitive tests.

Researchers recruited 1,800 people over age 65 and asked them to wear devices on their wrists that could track their movements. They also answered questions to assess symptoms of depression and to test their cognition.

More than 37% were early birds, often getting up before 7 a.m. and keeping busy with activities for up to 15 hours. These people were happiest, less depressed, with higher mental functioning.

Others — well, not so much. About a third of the volunteers who started their days later, even if they got to bed earlier, had more symptoms of depression and didn’t function as well. The most depressed people with the worst cognition were those with erratic levels of activity day to day.

While the study focused on older adults, our sleep patterns are often established earlier in life. Unrelated research involving younger adults suggests being a night owl, and presumably snoozing the morning away, increases the risk of heart disease and early death.

The good news is that all this is modifiable behavior. We can work to get out of bed earlier and stay busy even into retirement.

Consider this your wake-up call.

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