Does "Early to Bed, Early to Rise..." Really Matter?

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."


We've all heard this phrase, first found in the 1735 edition of Poor Richard's Almanack, and attributed to Ben Franklin, but is it true? How can what time you go to sleep each night make you richer or smarter?

While it's difficult to determine whether bedtime has any bearing whatsoever on wealth or wisdom, it seems that Mr. Franklin may actually have had a point on the health part. A study published last year in the journal Sleep found that an early bedtime followed by an early wake time may impact weight and overall health in children.

The study followed 2,200 Australian youths between the ages of 9 and 16 and found that those who went to bed late and subsequently got up late were 1.5 times more likely to become obese than their early-bird counterparts. Despite getting virtually the same amount of sleep each night, the night owls got almost 30 fewer minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day and were nearly three times as likely to watch TV, play video games or sit in front of the computer for more than the recommended number of hours each day.

Shift workers who work nights and therefore must go to sleep in the early morning hours and wake later in the day often experience problems such as headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and lack of energy, even when they get their recommended eight hours of sleep. Doctors believe this is due to the disruption of the body's natural circadian rhythm, an internal clock that is based on a 24-hour cycle ruled partially by sunrise and sunset. Jet lag is another common example of a disrupted circadian rhythm.

Next time you're deciding what time to go to bed, think of old Ben's words and try to retire early. You may not notice an increase in intelligence or the size of your pocketbook, but you may just find yourself feeling a lot better.

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