I get up every morning before dawn to watch the sun rise. I always say that this ritualistic habit keeps me happy, but it turns out that science might back me up here. New research suggests that getting up early could help protect you from depression.
According to a study published Monday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, early risers tend to report higher degrees of wellbeing than night owls. The study used data collected from more than 85,000 participants in the U.K. who wore wrist monitors to track their sleep habits. Researchers then compared that information to self-reported data on mood and found that night owls were more likely to report anxiety and depression.
While I want to say that rising early is just more natural and therefore healthier, it's not nearly that simple. Most experts say that waking up early is neither good nor bad and your preference is probably genetic. But, because getting up early aligns with traditional work and school schedules, early risers tend to get more uninterrupted rest than individuals who stay up late.
That alignment of genetic factors (such as waking up early) with social norms — 9 to 5 schedules — is what the study authors point to to explain why early birds have lower odds of depression, CNN reported.
Researchers also think that people who get up early are less likely to have irregular sleep schedules is because they are less prone to “social jet lag,” according to the study. In case you don’t know, social jet lag happens after you go to an all night party when you’re used to getting up at six. And not for nothing, but people who get up earlier are awake for more hours of sunlight, and exposure to sunlight is thought to have a beneficial effect on mood.
While I am all about that early-to-rise life, none of this means that being a night owl is bad, per se. "The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person's world, which leads to disruption in their body's circadian rhythms," Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told CNN. In other words, honoring your own circadian rhythms is a great way to stay healthy and happy and it just may be easier for folks who like to get up early.
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