Do People Who Wake up at Dawn Sleep Better Than the Rest of Us?


Written by Carrie Arnold

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At a Glance:

  • 33.6% of surveyed U.S. adults regularly woke up within an hour of dawn in January 2023.
  • Adults who wake up within an hour of dawn get at least a half-hour more sleep than average.
  • 42.4% of adults who wake within an hour of dawn fall asleep within 20 minutes every night, compared to 27% of adults who wake up within four hours of dawn.
  • 26.4% of adults have trouble falling asleep when daylight saving time starts, and 23.8% lose sleep.
  • Adults who change their wakeup time to match the season are 17.3% more likely than average to feel fit and physically sound every day.

Waking with the sun is a practice as old as, well, time itself. 

For one, it may help us see things more clearly, or at least in better light. It also can help us fall asleep more effectively, and recent studies even show a correlation between waking at dawn and our ability to fight cancer. Plus, it just seems more peaceful.

“That time alone in the morning, when it’s quiet, just helps me so much [to] manage stress throughout the day,” says Stephanie Bussineau, a 43-year-old teacher and mom.

But dawn literally changes every day. Come March 12, when daylight saving time starts for most of the United States, sunrise is a full hour later.

This could be why just 33.6% of U.S. adults wake within an hour of dawn, according to a survey from Sleep Doctor, looking at U.S. adults’ sleep habits in January 2023.

Graphic showing one-third of adults wake up within an hour of dawn.

The thing is, though: These adults sleep 36 more minutes than average, coming in at 7 hours, 3 minutes, versus the survey average of 6 hours, 27 minutes. They’re more likely to feel productive, with 56% of them reporting as such, compared to the survey average of 48.7%. And 4.2 out of 10 of them fall asleep within 20 minutes, considered ideal, versus 2.7 of 10 folks who wake four hours or more before or after dawn. 

So is it time for us to ditch our alarm clocks, constantly reset our routines, and let the sun dictate our day? Or is there more we can learn about how to make the sun work for us, at least when it comes to sleep?

Is Waking up at Dawn Good for Everyone?

Not everyone is actually wired to wake up at dawn, says Dr. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., of The Sleep Doctor. Different people have different chronotypes, the variations in our circadian rhythms that help determine when we prefer to go to sleep and wake up. 

Becoming one of the 20% of adults who is a morning person, particularly one who rises at dawn, isn’t an easy switch to flip. Studies have shown that 10% to 30% of the population are evening types, or night owls. 

The survey shows that most adults are doing OK with those schedules. On average, adults who wake up within an hour of dawn get up at 6:32 a.m. and have an earlier bedtime than those who wake four hours or more after dawn; their average wake-up time is 8:39 a.m. 

“Light, especially sunlight, is what resynchronizes people every day.” — Dr. Michael J. Breus, The Sleep Doctor

Those folks shouldn’t necessarily try to be early risers, Dr. Breus says.

“For [those] who are considered night owls, this would be an awful thing for them to do,” he says. Instead, the important factors to getting quality sleep are going to bed and getting up at the same time every day — no exceptions, he says. 

Among survey respondents, 47.4% of people who wake up within an hour of dawn consider themselves morning people, compared to 21.7% of people who wake up four or more hours before or after the sun comes up.

Why We Wake When We Do

Genetics primarily determine our tendency to rise early or stay up late. We also may do so because of family or work commitments. 

Bussineau, for instance, wakes between 4:30 and 5 a.m. because she has more energy to read, walk the dog, or meditate than at night. Michael Brown, 57, of Georgia wakes up early to tend to the chickens and goats on his small farm before starting his day job in accounting.

“When you have a four-legged alarm clock, there’s no such thing as sleeping in,” Brown says. 

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Dr. Karin G. Johnson, a neurologist and sleep expert at Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts, says her patients sleep better when they can adjust their work schedules to be more in sync with their natural circadian rhythms. This reduces social jet lag, the discrepancy between a person’s internal circadian clock and the timetable of our social obligations.

Environmental factors also play a role. A big one is artificial light, which can affect how and when our bodies produce melatonin when the sun goes down, says Fiona Barwick, Ph.D., director of the Sleep & Circadian Health Program at Stanford University. 

Just 8.1% of survey respondents reported adjusting their bedtime to wake closer to dawn.

“What that means is everyone’s bedtimes are later than they normally would or should be, and that includes night owls,” Barwick says.

As for changing our bedtimes: We’re not really into it. Just 8.1% of survey respondents reported adjusting their bedtime to wake closer to dawn. Only 6.2% say they use a sunrise alarm clock, which can mimic morning sun.

Good Light, Sleep Tight

That morning sun is the key, Dr. Breus says. 

The role of natural light in the morning is important because it keeps the body’s inner clock ticking each day steadily. This effect is most powerful right after waking, he says.

“Light, especially sunlight, is what resynchronizes people every day,” Dr. Breus says.

Bussineau, for example, credits seeing the bright light of the sunrise and going to bed early every night as key to maintaining her good sleep hygiene.

Survey respondents who change their sleep schedules to match dawn throughout the year report positive effects, as well. They are 17.3% more likely to feel fit and productive every day, compared to all survey respondents. 

How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Us?

Daylight saving time can throw a twice-yearly wrinkle into that sleep plan, however, by shifting schedules a full hour. Some 45.5% of adults who change their sleep schedule to wake closer to dawn say they lose sleep when daylight saving time starts. Among all respondents, just 23.8% lose sleep when the clocks change. 

Pie chart showing 23.8% of survey participants reported lost sleep after daylight saving time.

Similarly, 42.6% of adults who change their sleep schedules have trouble falling asleep at daylight saving time, compared to 26.4% of all respondents.

Adults who reported waking within an hour of dawn in January 2023 fared a bit better than average: 22.6% lose sleep when the clocks change, and 23.6% have trouble falling asleep.

Time zones matter, too. Consider that sunrise in Anchorage can be 1.5 to 2.5 hours different than in Los Angeles. Our culture also may be conditioned to favor early risers, Dr. Johnson says. 

But Dr. Breus says those who stay up late or sleep in shouldn’t feel doomed if they can’t wake up at the crack of dawn. Instead, it’s a matter of accommodating your chronotype and ensuring you’re getting the best rest possible for you.


Sleep Doctor conducted the survey on the online survey platform Pollfish on Feb. 3, 2023. Results are from 1,250 survey participants in the United States who were ages 18 and older at the time of the survey. All respondents attested to answering the survey questions truthfully and accurately.


About The Author

Carrie Arnold

Contributing Writer

Carrie Arnold is a freelance science journalist living in Virginia. She has written about health and science topics for National Geographic, Mother Jones, New Scientist, and other publications.

  • POSITION: Side Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Hot Sleeper

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