In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers found that people whose sleep pattern goes against their natural body clock are more likely to have depression and lower levels of wellbeing.
They also found the most robust evidence to date that is genetically programmed to be an early riser is protective against major depression and improves wellbeing.
Researchers suggest this may be because society is set up to be more aligned to early risers, through the standard 9-5 working pattern.
COVID-19 has led to more flexible working patterns and this research may help make the case for more adaptable working habits to suit individuals’ needs.
The team built on previous research which mapped 351 genes linked to being an early riser, or a night owl.
They examined whether these genes were causally associated with seven mental health and wellbeing outcomes, including major depression, using data on more than 450,000 UK adults.
The team also developed a new measure of “social jetlag” that measures the variation in sleep patterns between work and free days. They measured this in more than 85,000 UK Biobank participants.
They found that people who were more misaligned from their natural body clock were more likely to report depression and anxiety and have lower well-being.
They also found the most robust evidence yet that being a morning person is protective of depression and improves wellbeing.
The team says this could be explained by the fact that the demands of society mean night owls are more likely to defy their natural body clocks, by having to wake up early for work.
Overall, the research team found that morning people were more likely to be aligned to their natural body clock.
The study indicates that aligning working schedules to an individual’s natural body clock may improve mental health and wellbeing in night owls.
If you care about depression and anxiety, please read studies about why people with diabetes have high risk of depression and findings of this common nutrient could help treat depression.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to depression in older people and results showing that scientists discover three types of depression.
The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry. One author of the study is Jessica O’Loughlin.
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