The early bird catches the worm is an old saying everyone has heard before. However, a new study states that going to sleep early and rising early may have benefits for a person's mental health.
Early To Bed, Early To Rise
Whether a person is a night owl or an early sleeper, scientist suggest that the time a person decides to go to sleep and wake up may affect a person's chance of developing some form of mental health.
A team of researchers from the University of Colorado, the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham, and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, collaborated on a study to find the link between a person's risk of depression and sleep-wake preferences. The researchers studied the data collected from the Nurses' Health Study II, which is an on-going study that focuses on the risks for major diseases in women.
In the study, the researchers examined the medical data of over 30,000 female participants who were around the age of 55. All of the participants were reported to not have depression in 2009 and filled out a questionnaire about their health status in 2011 and 2013.
The team of researchers allowed certain variables that could affect a person's sleep-wake cycle, including exposure to light and a person's work schedule. Other variables that can lead to a person developing depression including sleep duration, chronic diseases, and physical activity were also accounted for.
About 37 percent of the participants stated that they were "early risers," 10 percent considered themselves to be "night owls," and 53 percent claimed that they were in between the two categories. The researchers found that people who go to sleep late or wake up late are more likely to live on their own and are not married. The researchers also found that people who are night owls may have a smoking habit and have irregular sleeping patterns.
The researchers discovered that the "early birds" have a 12-17 percent lower risk of depression and people who are "night owls" had a 6 percent higher risk of developing some sort of "mood disorder."
Lifestyle vs. Genetics
The researchers did note that genetics could play a factor in influencing a person's chronotype, which is sleep and wake preferences. They continued that previous family studies suggest that a person's decision to go to sleep and wake up could be in a person's genes.
The lead author of the study, Céline Vetter, stated that despite these findings, it is still difficult to asses what factors can affect a person's sleep pattern and that it is still something that scientists should pay attention to.
"Alternatively, when and how much light you get also influences chronotype, and light exposure also influences depression risk. Disentangling the contribution of light patterns and genetics on the link between chronotype and depression risk is an important next step," Vetter stated.
Vetter also suggested that people who are late risers and are concerned for their mental health could take certain steps to decrease their risk of depression, such as exercising and maintaining good hygiene.