Sleep is associated with a state of muscle relaxation and a reduced perception of environmental stimuli. Image: Rachel CALAMUSA (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Analyzing patterns of behavior that can influence depression rates, scientists have found that waking up just an hour earlier seems to reduce the risk of depression by double digits. This comes from researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The research was based on a database containing information relating to 840,000 people. Looking at the data from the patterns, the researchers found that changing sleep time earlier decreased the risk of major depression by 23 percent.
The data adds to the accumulation of evidence that what is called a chronotype (a person’s propensity to sleep at a given time) influences the risk of depression. Research is added to this area of knowledge by establishing how small or small the change in relation to sleep and the increase is necessary to influence mental health.
As part of the research, a method called “Mendelian randomization”–One that takes advantage of genetic associations to help decipher the cause and effect– was adopted. This helped to illuminate the chronotype of individuals.
Here he was that more than 340 common genetic variants, including variants of the so-called “clock gene” PER2, influence a person’s chronotype. This means that a person’s preference for when to sleep and when to wake up has a genetic basis.
This also points to one of the genetic factors of depression. However, this potential can be challenged by deliberately altering the alarm clock time.
The findings are relevant at the time of the coronavirus pandemic, as many of those working from home have gravitated toward a later sleep schedule.
Here, previous observational studies established that so-called nocturnal owls are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to morning owls. What the new research shows is how people with depression or at risk for depression can adjust the time they increase during the day as a means to decrease the potential for feeling depressed.
For this reason, it is possible that getting more exposure to light during the day, which tend to get the little ones, causes a cascade of hormonal impacts that can influence mood. Or the issue may be related to the internal biological clock.
The research appears in the magazine Psychiatry JAMA. The research paper addresses “Genetic daytime preference, sleep time, and risk of major depressive disorder.”