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The Early Bird Gets the Benefit

For most college students, few things are scarier than an 8 a.m. class. Many prefer not to see the light of day until 10 a.m. at the very earliest, especially after a grueling late night of studying.

However, a growing body of research indicates that waking up early comes with a wide range of benefits. Forbes cites evidence that students who identify as morning people, on average, earn a GPA a full point higher than those who identify as night owls. In addition, morning people are generally better planners, more optimistic, more proactive, and better able to anticipate problems.

Aside from work-related benefits, there are also potential health benefits associated with early rising. Forbes states that those people who go to bed early and wake up early get better sleep than those who go to sleep late and wake up late. In addition, Women’s Health cites a 2011 Northwestern University study which found that people who sleep late consume about 248 more calories a day, twice as much fast food, and about half as many fruits and vegetables as early risers. According to the same article, late sleepers generally have a higher BMI than early risers.

Aside from researched benefits, early risers obviously have the advantage of opening up more time in their day than people who spend more time sleeping. In addition, mornings are generally more peaceful than the rest of the day, since fewer people are awake. This is especially true on a college campus, where many do not drag themselves out of bed until twenty minutes before their first class.

These benefits may sound appealing, but to many students they seem unattainable. Perhaps the perks of early rising are something for adults to enjoy, but definitely not for sleep-deprived college students. However, early riser Lia Bonfatti, LSOE '18, was able to explain why she finds value in getting up early each day.

“I like to get up early in the morning because then I feel like I have the whole day ahead of me,” she said. “It really does open up your day when you wake up at a reasonable time.”

She is not, however, referring to more time to be productive, as the Forbes article indicates. While some people find that they are most productive in the mornings, Lia is not one of these people. She uses this extra time in the morning to relax, go on Pinterest, and have a little quiet time to herself.

“It’s the only space in my day where I don’t feel guilty if I’m not doing something productive,” she explained. “I like to cook breakfast and it usually takes me a solid ten minutes to do so. I like to slowly drink my coffee. I like to be very leisurely.”

The early wakeup call gives her more buffer time before her obligations kick in. While you can certainly have ‘me time’ at any point in the day, Bonfatti prefers to take hers in the morning with a hot cup of coffee to set the right tone for the day.

“If I have a rushed morning, I have a rushed day,” she said.

While Bonfatti does not personally view the morning hours as time to be productive, getting up early can certainly be a way for others to jump start the day’s agenda.

“[I like to get up early because] my day just gets started on the right foot and I'm energized to tackle whatever comes my way. I also think that I'm most productive in the morning, so the rest of my day feels right when I can get an early start,” Alex Barba, LSOE '18, stated of her own decision to get up early each day.

Notably, both students highlighted the fact that their morning time has to be enjoyable in order for them to find the motivation to wake up and get going. Both also cited feeling much better about their days altogether when begun earlier. That centered, energized, and prepared feeling routinely encourages them to start their days early.

This does not mean that early mornings are always easy, of course. Bonfatti is the first to admit that her early mornings are a struggle, and that the extra leisure time she receives is not sufficient on its own to drag her out of bed.

“I for sure have trouble doing it… what gets me up is breakfast,” she said. “There are some people who wake up and start their days with exercise, but that would make me not want to get up. It’s because I start my day with enjoyable things that I’m able to get up earlier easier.”

Both Bonfatti and Barba's experiences as well as the growing research demonstrate the many pros of being early to rise. This is not to say that waking up early is beneficial every day for everyone, especially after staying up until 3 a.m. working on a research paper. Some people do just fine with their late wakeup time, and if the system isn’t broken, then there’s no pressing need to fix it.

However, if you’re interested in getting in on some of these early morning benefits, the key is to start your day off with something that you love. Whether it’s a delicious breakfast, a Pinterest scrolling session, a quick run, or a Netflix episode, find the reward that’s strong enough to haul you out of bed before noon.