Study finds that waking up an hour earlier can significantly reduce risk of depression


A study by the University of Colorado of over a quarter of a million people found that waking up just an hour earlier in the mornings was correlated with a 23% reduced risk of depression. The study was published in JAMA psychiatry and is consistent with a 2018 study that found a 27% lower risk of depression among early risers. Other studies have found positive benefits to drinking coffee, so if you go to bed early, get up at the crack of dawn and have a cup or two you may be protecting your mental health. Here’s more, from PennLive:

Conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (and published on Science Daily), this study took a look at 840,000 individuals that pushed their alarm clock settings up by an hour.

What they found was that, on the whole, that the risk of depression of these “early risers” was cut by 23 percent.

“We have known for some time that there is a relationship between sleep timing and mood, but a question we often hear from clinicians is: How much earlier do we need to shift people to see a benefit?” states the study’s senior author, Celine Vetter, assistant professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder. “We found that even one-hour earlier sleep timing is associated with significantly lower risk of depression.”

The study, however, doesn’t just look at those who get up from their beds earlier; those who decide to go to sleep an hour earlier than they usually do also had a lower risk of depression as well.

“Keep your days bright and your nights dark,” advises lead author of the study, Iyas, Daghlas, M.D, to those looking to improve their lifestyle. “Have your morning coffee on the porch. Walk or ride your bike to work if you can and dim those electronics in the evening.”

[From PennLive]

If you’re interested in learning more about this study, The University of Colorado has a more thorough writeup on it, I just excerpted this one as it explained it simpler. There are also genetics at play, including a gene called PER2. I looked up my 23andMe data for this gene and tried to make sense of it, but ended up lost. The gist is that genes may influence your sleep preferences and may also be a factor in whether you’re prone to depression. Here’s a section from that article about this:

Do those with genetic variants which predispose them to be early risers also have lower risk of depression?

The answer is a firm yes.

Each one-hour earlier sleep midpoint (halfway between bedtime and wake time) corresponded with a 23% lower risk of major depressive disorder.

Put another way, if someone who normally goes to bed at 1 a.m. goes to bed at midnight instead and sleeps the same duration, they could cut their risk by 23%; if they go to bed at 11 p.m., they could cut it by about 40%.

It’s unclear from the study whether those who are already early risers could benefit from getting up even earlier. But for those in the intermediate range or evening range, shifting to an earlier bedtime would likely be helpful.

[From Colorado.edu]

As someone who goes to bed around 9pm and wakes up around 4:30, this is promising to me. I know it’s not for everyone, but I’ve always preferred to wake up earlier and go to bed when I’m tired. My mom tells stories about me asking to go to bed when I was a little girl. So many of us are dealing with mental health struggles after this tough year. Going to bed earlier and setting your alarm a little earlier can’t hurt.

I wish they had studied naps too though. I always love a good nap.

Photos credit: Cottonbro, Andrea Piacquadio, Ketut Subiyanto and Monstera on Pexels

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