A recent study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry showed that waking up an hour before the normal time can reduce the risk of a person suffering from depression by 23 per cent.It’s also among the first studies to quantify just how much, or little, change is required to influence mental health.
As people emerge, post-pandemic, from working and attending school remotely a trend that has led many to shift to a later sleep schedule ,the findings could have important implications.
Previous observational studies have shown that night owl are as much as twice as likely to suffer from depression as early risers, regardless of how long they sleep. But because mood disorders themselves can disrupt sleep patterns, researchers have had a hard time deciphering what causes what.
Other studies have had small sample sizes, relied on questionnaires from a single time point, or didn’t account for environmental factors which can influence both sleep timing and mood, potentially confounding results.
In 2018, Vetter published a large, long term study of 32,000 nurses showing that “early risers” were up to 27 per cent less likely to develop depression over the course of four years, but that begged the question. Daghlas then used a method called “Mendelian randomization” that leverages genetic associations to help decipher cause and effect.
He stresses that a large randomized clinical trial is necessary to determine definitively whether going to bed early can reduce depression. “But this study definitely shifts the weight of evidence toward supporting a causal effect of sleep timing on depression.”
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