A one-hour change in your sleep routine has a significant impact on risk factors for serious depression. Going to bed and getting up one hour earlier than normal is linked to a 23% lower chance of developing depressive disorders.
How waking one hour early cuts depression risk by double digits?
A broad new genetic study published May 26 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that waking one hour early cut depression by 23%.
It is also one of the first studies to quantify how much, or how little, change is necessary to affect mental health.
The results could have significant implications when individuals return to work and school remotely after the pandemic, a trend that has caused many to shift to a later sleep schedule.
We’ve known for a long time that there’s a link between sleep timing and mood. But a common question we hear from physicians is: How much earlier do we need to shift people to see a benefit? Celine Vetter is the study’s senior author.
They found that waking one hour early cut depression.
Previous observational studies have found that night owl are up to twice as likely as early risers to suffer from depression, regardless of how long they slept. However, because mood problems may disturb sleep patterns, researchers have had difficulty determining what causes what.
Other studies had small sample numbers, relied on questionnaires collected at a single time point, or failed to account for environmental elements that might impact sleep timing and mood, potentially confounding results.
Vetter published big, long-term research of 32,000 nurses in 2018 that found that “early risers” were up to 27 percent less likely to develop depression over four years. But this begged the question: What does it mean to be an early riser?
Iyas Daghlas, M.D., the study’s lead author, used data from the U.K. biological database to determine whether shifting sleep time earlier is truly protective and how much change is necessary. After that, Daghlas utilized a technique known as “Mendelian randomization.” This method employs genetic correlations to aid in the determination of cause and effect.
The researchers examined identified genetic data from up to 850,000 people. They comprised 85,000 participants who completed sleep preference surveys and 250,000 people who wore wearable sleep trackers for seven days. This provided them with a more detailed picture, down to the hour, of how gene variants impact when we sleep and wake up.
In the largest of these samples, almost one-third of those polled identified as morning larks, 9% as night owls, and the rest as somewhere in the centre. In addition, the average sleep midpoint was 3 a.m., which means they went to bed at 11 p.m. and woke up at 6 a.m.
With this information, the researchers turned to a separate sample that includes genetic data, anonymized medical and medication records, and surveys on major depressive disorder diagnoses.
Do those who have genetic variations predispose them to become early risers have a decreased risk of depression?
The answer is a firm yes.
Each hour earlier sleep midpoint (halfway between bedtime and waking time) was associated with a 23% decreased risk of major depressive disorder.
This means that if you go to bed at 1 a.m. every day and sleep for the same amount of time, you may reduce your risk by 23%. If you go to bed at 11 p.m., you can reduce it 40%.
According to the study, people who are already early risers may benefit from waking up even earlier. However, for those in the middle of the evening range, going to an earlier bedtime would most certainly be beneficial.
What could explain this effect?
According to some studies, getting more light exposure during the day, which early risers tend to experience, causes a cascade of hormonal effects that might influence mood.
Others argue that possessing a biological clock, or circadian rhythm, that differs from that of the majority of people might be depressive in and of itself.
We live in a society built for morning people. And evening people often feel as if they are always out of sync with that societal clock.
Vetter has the following suggestions for those who want to start sleeping earlier:
Make your days bright and your evenings dark, she advises. For example, drink your coffee on the porch in the morning. If possible, walk or ride your bike to work, and turn off your electronics in the evening.
What are other things you can do to help yourself cope with depression?
In terms of the internal clock, you feel compelled to live by, consider whether you are experiencing social dissonance. For example, do you notice that you sleep and wake up at different times than other people? Does your internal clock not match the hours required by your responsibilities, such as work or school? This might be because you have the chronotype of a night owl.
Is it possible to permanently alter your sleep cycle if you are genetically predisposed to a particular pattern? Because our genetics play a huge role in determining our chronotypes, it can be difficult to make major changes that go against what is natural for our bodies.
This shift, however, does not have to be dramatic. According to the study, even waking one hour early cut depression.
Moreover, you simply need to change your sleep pattern 1-2 hours earlier than usual to get results.
Habits to Gain Control Over Your Sleep Cycle:
Keep your days bright. The pleasant hormone serotonin is increased by exposure to sunlight. Spending more daylight hours during the day will help you stay alert. Take your morning coffee outdoors, go for a midday walk, and spend as much time as possible outside during the day.
And keep your nights dark. Contrary to what has been stated above, exposure to darkness increases the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. So darken your room as much as possible to make it easier to sleep. Switch off all lights, close curtains. And turn off all electronic devices emitting blue light, such as laptops, computers, phones, and so on.
Create a nighttime and morning routine. Maintain a consistent morning and evening routine. For example, turning off electronics, having a hot bath, pouring a sleep-supportive nightcap, and other relaxing activities should be part of your pre-bedtime routine. Likewise, a cool glass of mint-infused water, a brisk shower, a moderate jog, and so on should be part of your daily routine to encourage wakefulness.
Don’t change the duration of your sleep. You want to change when you sleep and wake up, not how many hours you sleep. Changing your cycle might result in a difficult first night or two at night. However, this disruption should not be permanent. Aim for the same amount of hours of sleep — just within a little different period.