Healthy sleep patterns can ward off depression and extend life

According to new research, women who are “early risers” are less likely to develop depression.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found that those who naturally wake up early are at a lower risk of mental illness due to greater daylight exposure.

The research was undertaken at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and examined the links between mood disorders and chronotype (sleep and waking preferences). 

The four-year study was conducted using data from 32,470 female nurses. At the start of the study, none had been diagnosed with depression. 37% described themselves as early risers, 53% said they were intermediate types and 10% described themselves as evening types, or night owls.

At the end of the study, 2,581 cases of depression had developed, with 290 of these being in women from the night owl category. 

Results concluded that those who woke up later were more likely to be depressed, even when other factors likely to put them at risk were accounted for, such as living alone, smoking and being single. 

Conversely, morning people had a 12% to 27% less chance of developing depression. “This tells us that there might be an effect of chronotype on depression risk that is not driven by environmental and lifestyle factors,” said lead author Céline Vetter.

While the findings suggest that a person’s sleeping pattern is an independent risk factor for depression, she clarified that this does not necessarily mean night owls will inevitably develop the illness.

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