Do you wake up naturally in the morning, or do you need several alarms before you manage to crack open your eyes and drag yourself back into a conscious being? Well, according to the latest research, night owls may be at a mood disadvantage. Waking up naturally means your body is in tune with your daily schedule. If you are a night owl, more than likely, you are at odds with the daily grind. And that can take its toll, leaving you more likely to become depressed and more likely to become anxious over time.
This new study used sleep data gathered from wrist activity monitors worn by more than 85,000 participants in the UK Biobank Study, home to in-depth health and genetic information on more than half a million Brits.
According to the study, those with an inconsistent sleep cycle, a trait that is usually associated with night owls, are more likely to report anxiety and depression. So, why is this case? There are some viable explanations.
It’s a well-known fact that regular exposure to sunlight is a sure-fire way to prevent depression. Vitamin D is necessary for your happiness levels. People who experience seasonal affective disorder or SAD can attest to how important natural light is for affecting your mood. What does sunlight exposure have to do with night owls vs. morning people? Well, it’s simple, really. Early risers get higher and earlier light exposure, which helps ward off depression.
The most likely cause of depression in night owls is that the daily grind is set up for morning people. Most people work from 9 am to 5 pm. That means night owls are getting less sleep than the average adult human body requires, 7 to 9 hours a night. If your normal sleep schedule is 2 am to 10 am, being forced to get up at 7 am for work is only 5 hours of sleep. Over time, this wears the night owl down and can affect your immune system, cognitive functioning, and mood.
This mismatch between your daily routine and your internal body clock is known as circadian misalignment. The greater the misalignment, the higher the risk for depression and anxiety. Due to living in a world made for morning people, night owls tend to be more misaligned than their early riser counterparts.
Social Jet lag
Morning people also tend to have less social jet lag. Social jet lag is when you have a different sleep schedule and routine on the weekends than during the week. Morning people tend to wake at the same time every day, regardless of the day of the week and tend not to stay up much past their bedtime on weekends. Night owls tend to make up the sleep they lost during the week by sleeping in on the weekends and consequently stay up later because they cannot fall asleep, thus exacerbating their circadian misalignment even further. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to underperform when we deviate from our typical schedules, no matter if we are morning people or night owls.
Aging and circadian rhythms
Our bodies’ circadian rhythms naturally shift as we age towards earlier hours of waking. Teens tend to be night owls, while octogenarians are more likely to be early risers. So, as we get older, our body clocks naturally shift towards wanting to wake up earlier. But until that time, what are some ways night owls can beat the tendency towards depression and anxiety?
Beating The Night Owl Blues
Have no fear, fellow night owls. There are ways to help navigate and minimize our circadian misalignment. There are several things you can do. Turning off all electronics an hour before bed can help. Exercising earlier in the day, as well as no late-night snacking, can help you wake up earlier.
Morning people may have a slight mood advantage over night owls. No matter when you go to bed, regularly going to bed on time is best.
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