According to a study, people whose sleep patterns work against their natural body clock are more likely to have depression and a lower level of wellbeing.
University of Exeter researchers also found the most robust evidence yet that genetic programming protects against major depression as an early bird and increases your overall well-being. Happy morning larks!
This could be because society is more geared towards early risers through the standard work pattern of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the study suggests, which could help maintain the more flexible work patterns that were common during the pandemic to suit individual needs.
How did the course work?
The University of Exeter academic built on previous research that mapped 351 genes that are either an early bird or a night owl.
Using data from more than 450,000 European adults from the UK biobank, they investigated whether these genes were causally linked to various mental health and wellbeing outcomes, including major depression.
In addition to the genetic information, the participants also filled out a questionnaire asking whether they were a morning or evening person.
The team developed a new measure of “social jetlag” – the variation in sleep patterns between work and days off – and measured it in more than 85,000 UK biobank participants for whom sleep data were available, using wrist-worn activity monitors.
Young caucasian man waking up in bed late morning.
What did the researchers find out?
“We found that people with incorrect natural clocks were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and decreased well-being,” said lead author Jessica O’Loughlin. “We also found the most robust evidence yet that a morning person protects against depression and improves well-being.”
Overall, the research team found that people tend to focus more on their natural internal clock in the morning.
Lead author Dr. Jessica Tyrrell said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced new flexibility in work patterns for many people.
“Our research shows that adapting work schedules to a person’s natural clock can improve the mental health and wellbeing of night owls.”