Whether you’re an early riser or a night bird can affect your well-being and chances of developing depression and anxiety, according to new study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, by researchers at University of Colorado Boulder and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The large study of the health of a large group of nurses around the age of 55 identified a link between chronotype (a person’s chronotype is the propensity for the individual to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period) and depression risk.
The research shows that someone who goes to bed early and rises early, as opposed to going to sleep later and getting up later, may affect their mental and emotional well-being.
The study involved data from 32,470 female participants, of average age 55, in the Nurses’ Health Study. All the participants were free of depression when they signed up for the study in 2009.
Of the participants, 37 percent described themselves as early birds, 53 percent described themselves as intermediate types, and 10 percent described themselves as night owls. The participants were analysed over a four-year period.
Depression risk factors like body weight, physical activity, chronic disease, sleep duration, or night shift work were also assessed.
The researchers found that late chronotypes, or night owls, are less likely to be married, more likely to live alone and smoke, they are also more likely to experience erratic sleep patterns.
After accounting for these factors, the researchers found that early risers still had a 12 – 27 percent lower risk of being depressed than intermediate types and late types had a 6 percent higher risk than intermediate types.
Genetics play a role in determining whether you are an early bird, intermediate type, or night owl, with research showing 12-42 percent heritability, however there are steps that can be taken to influence how early a riser you can become.
How sleep affects mental health
Every 90 minutes, a person with a ‘normal’ sleep pattern cycles between two major categories of sleep, during “quiet” sleep, a person progresses through four stages of increasingly deep sleep. Body temperature drops, muscles relax, plus their heart rate and breathing slows. The deepest stage of quiet sleep produces physiological changes that help boost the immune system.
The second category of sleep is rapid eye movement or REM sleep. This is the period when an individual will dream. Their body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can increase to levels experienced when they’re awake. Studies show that REM sleep contributes to improved mental health and improves learning and memory.
Scientists have discovered that sleep disruption affects mental health by changing the levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, which in turn negatively alters processing and the regulation of emotions.
Some small alterations that you can make now are:
- Get into a regular routine. In particular, go to bed and get up at the same time each morning even if you haven’t slept well.
- If you are not asleep within 30 minutes, get up for a while before returning to bed. If you don’t drop off within 30 minutes, get up again and so on.
- Try to avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) from 6 pm onwards. Avoid alcohol and, if possible, cigarettes from 5pm onwards.
- Try not to eat a meal within a couple of hours of going to bed.
- Increase your exercise routine and trying to lose some excess weight often helps with sleep.
- Don’t do anything in bed: don’t watch TV, read, do crosswords, or think about worrying things. Reserve bed for sleeping…and of course love.
- Get into the habit of doing something relaxing before bed: listen to a Calmer Sea meditation or try some relaxing music, have a warm bath and slow down!
- Try not to worry about your sleep, or lack of it: the more you worry about it, the less likely you are to drop off to sleep. You can survive without much sleep, even though you will be tired.
- Sleep, like any habit, takes a while to change. Try to stick to the above guidelines for at least two weeks before deciding whether or not they help.
At Calmer Sea we want to create a better life experience for as many people as possible by helping them to break down any barriers that they face and unlocking their true potential. By taking the right steps to achieve a good, restful night’s sleep and following the Calmer Sea process, together, we can help you to relax and find inner peace.