Waking up later in the day and going to bed in the early morning may seem convenient but research has shown that this can cause a dangerous circadian misalignment (this is when the timing between the endogenous circadian system and behavioural rhythms). This in layman terms is when individuals go against their natural internal body clock.
Though there is ample research on this area of neuroscience, there is less research on how going against your natural body clock can affect your mental health. Therefore, researchers at the university of Exeter decided to conduct a study to quantify how going against your internal body clock can affect mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression as well as general well-being.
Data from 146,067 participants between the age of 40-70 was used for this study. The participants were asked if they were a morning person or an evening person. They were then asked questions to determine their mental health and well-being status. They were asked if they had any depressive symptoms, any major depression, and if so, the current severity of their depression. They were then asked some general well-being questions such as “In general, how happy are you?” and “To what extent do you feel your life to be meaningful?”. They were then interviewed to determine the presence and severity of generalised anxiety disorder.
The results showed that 62.6% of people reported themselves to be morning people – with these generally tending to be older females with a lower BMI, and less likely to be smokers. The results also showed that going against your internal body clock was significantly related to having depression. Those who reported themselves to be morning people had a lower reporting of depression in comparison to evening people. In relation to general well being, those who identified themselves to be morning people had higher overall well being than evening people.
The results also showed there to be a relationship between being a morning person and reduced chances of having anxiety (though these results need to be further analysed as the confidence intervals were too wide for a confident interpretation). The researchers showed that an increased circadian misalignment (this occurs when you go against your internal body clock) was significantly associated with higher chances of depression, anxiety, depressive symptoms, and lower levels of well being.
This study provided evidence which would allow us to believe that being a morning person can have a protective mechanism against some mental health conditions such as depression and it very well may help improve the overall general well-being of individuals. Though further research is required into the effect of genetics on being a morning person and general well being as stated by the researchers. This would help in truly unraveling the relationship between being a morning person and mental health, which would be crucial in providing more options on how to improve the mental health and well-being of evening people.
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Feature Image: Photo by Cottonbro, Pexels
Original Source: O’Loughlin, J., Casanova, F., Jones, S.E. et al. Using Mendelian Randomisation methods to understand whether diurnal preference is causally related to mental health. Mol Psychiatry (2021).
Edited by Cyrus Rohani-Shukla