A good night’s sleep can do wonders for your health. If you find it hard to go to bed earlier, a new study has found that sleeping and waking up just an hour earlier help improve your mental health.
Conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the study analysed the genetic data, prescription records and medical history of 840,000 people to find out whether sleep timing patterns affect the risk of depression.
Researchers uncovered that our genes influence 12 to 42 per cent of our chronotype—a person’s natural tendency to fall asleep and wake up. One’s sleep chronotype explains why some people are inclined to be morning risers, while others feel more energetic late at night.
The results uncovered that those with the early bird genes were less likely to experience symptoms of depression. However, as more than half of your sleep chronotype is determined by your lifestyle habits, working towards an earlier bedtime could help improve your mental health as well.
The study found that sleeping an hour earlier lowered the risk for major depression by 23 per cent when the amount of sleep remains the same—that means if you’re someone who usually sleeps from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m., changing your sleeping hours to 11 pm to 7 am could cut your risk for depression by 23 per cent. If you want to minimise the risk more, a 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. bedtime would lower the risk by about 40 per cent.
If you’re already an early riser, it’s unclear from the study whether getting up even earlier would be beneficial for your mental health. However, if you’re someone who goes to bed in the wee hours of the night, it may be worth changing up your sleep routine to improve your mental health.