Getting enough good sleep is very important. But how much sleep should we be getting? Studies show that for adults, seven to eight hours a night is best. In the classic Alameda County Study, which included nearly 7,000 people, researchers found that this figure was associated with the greatest longevity. We have seen clearly that restricted sleep is detrimental, but too much sleep can also be detrimental to your health. Researchers discovered that subjects who reported short (six or less hours per night) or long sleep (nine or more hours) shortened their lives by an average of nine years when compared with people who slept seven to eight hours per night.

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

New research indicates that the familiar quote from Benjamin Franklin contains a lot of wisdom. Surprising health improvements might be the morning person’s real rewards. Those who go to bed early and get up early have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and overall lower death rates than those who stay up late and get up late.

God made humans diurnal, or made to function during the day. Our bodies are designed to work best when we go to sleep early in the evening and get up early in the morning. Dr. Timothy H. Monk, one of the foremost authorities on sleep, said: “Human beings are built to be daytime creatures. It’s hard-wired into our circuitry… when you deliberately try to shift the sleep/wake cycle, it’s like having a symphony with two conductors, each one beating out a different time… your delicate internal rhythms go haywire… you need to treat sleep as a precious and fragile thing.” Monk has found that early risers are more likely than night owls to stick to healthy routines and have better sleep. Larks (early birds) wake up, eat meals, exercise and go to bed at pretty much the same time each day. Night Owls, on the other hand, are not consistent with healthy daily practices.

The payoff for early birds is worth getting out of bed for. Regularity in one’s life also leads to healthier eating patterns, such as a good breakfast and less late-night snacking. This can in turn boost your immune system, fight off colds, improve mental performance during the day and decrease stress.