Defying Your Natural Body Clock Linked to Depression and Lower Wellbeing

Body Clock Early Alarm

People whose sleep pattern goes against their natural body clock are more likely to have depression and lower levels of wellbeing, according to a largescale new study.

Research led by the University of Exeter, published in Molecular Psychiatry, also found the most robust evidence to date that being genetically programmed to be an early riser is protective against major depression, and improves wellbeing. Researchers suggest this may be because society is set up to be more aligned to early risers, through the standard 9-5 working pattern.

COVID-19 has led to more flexible working patterns and this research may help make the case for more adaptable working habits to suit individuals’ needs.

The team built on previous research which mapped 351 genes linked to being an early riser, or a night owl. They used a statistical process called Mendelian Randomisation to examine whether these genes were causally associated with seven mental health and wellbeing outcomes, including major depression, using data on more than 450,000 UK adults from UK Biobank’s biomedical database and research resource. As well as the genetic information, participants also completed a questionnaire on whether they were a morning person or an evening person.

The team also developed a new measure of “social jetlag” that measures the variation in sleep pattern between work and free days. They measured this in more than 85,000 UK Biobank participants for whom sleep data was available, via wrist-worn activity monitors. They found that people who were more misaligned from their natural body clock were more likely to report depression and anxiety and have lower well-being.

Lead author Jessica O’Loughlin, of the University of Exeter, said: “We found that people who were misaligned from their natural body clock were more likely to report depression, anxiety and have lower wellbeing. We also found the most robust evidence yet that being a morning person is protective of depression and improves wellbeing.

We think this could be explained by the fact that the demands of society mean night owls are more likely to defy their natural body clocks, by having to wake up early for work.”

Overall, the research team found that morning people were more likely to be aligned to their natural body clock. They then tested the effect by looking at shift workers, and found that morningness may not be protective for depression in shift workers, meaning morning people who work shifts may not have improved mental health and wellbeing, however, this was inconclusive.

Senior author Dr. Jessica Tyrrell, of the University of Exeter, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new flexibility in working patterns for many people. Our research indicates that aligning working schedules to an individual’s natural body clock may improve mental health and wellbeing in night owls.”

Reference: “Using Mendelian Randomization methods to understand whether diurnal preference is causally related to mental health” 7 June 2021, Molecular Psychiatry.
DOI: 10.1038/s41380-021-01157-3

The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry. The research is supported by the Academy of Medical Sciences. The study involved collaborators from King’s College London, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Manchester and Monash University.

10 Comments on "Defying Your Natural Body Clock Linked to Depression and Lower Wellbeing"

  1. Good study, yes this describes me. I struggled all my life to work 9 to 5. had far less sleep than normal, it was very difficult to function at a high level. Would have been wonderful to have been able to time shift.

  2. retired after 18 years of shift work, found readjustment to mornings has been ruinous to my mental health. no time of day has been just a blah.
    will adjust, but just an observation.

  3. Tired Nightowl | June 10, 2021 at 2:16 pm | Reply

    I’m a natural night owl and always have been. As a kid it 100% influenced me at school, and currently definitely influences my 8-4 job. Having immense difficulty getting up causes me to skip breakfast, forget things in the morning, and not look as good as I would like to at work. I’m more fatigued in the evenings and get less done. My energy peaks at 9 or 10 pm, but if I het productive at that time I’ll be awake until 2am, so I have to relax. It causes problems with my self esteem, social skills, nutrition, and marriage. The worst thing about my life is sleep. It wasn’t this way when I worked 2pm to 10pm, but evening jobs don’t exist in my field.

  4. Elizabeth Welty | June 11, 2021 at 9:17 am | Reply

    I have a far sleep schedule, but not depressed. Everyone body is different. I been going to bed 12 a.m., or 10 p.m. since a childhood. Rude to stereotype.

  5. Jeanne M Farnsworth | June 12, 2021 at 8:35 am | Reply

    This is whyI get up early..
    1) It is the coolest time of day during wRm weather to water my garden. Gardening feeds my soul as well as my families bellies.
    During the fall and winter I go out to my hydroponic greenhouse to check on my plants.
    It gives me purpose. I’m 70 y/o and it is just an enjoyable activity.

  6. Natural Rhythm | June 12, 2021 at 10:29 am | Reply

    I read this article twice. It said nearly nothing. Great title though

  7. Stop saying “standard 9 to 5. That would be no lunch.

  8. yellowjasmine | June 14, 2021 at 4:31 pm | Reply

    i think the research sounds great. ive been a night owl since i was a kid that it even bothered my parents to know i always stay up and until now i cant sleep properly even when i try to. and the pandemic f/cked it up even more.

    when i try to sleep at 10pm, id wake up 1-3 hrs but when i stay up until 7am i sleep like a baby. i wake up around 2pm and the cycle restarts. i do wake up fairly refreshed but my eyebugs are getting bigger. maybe i should just stop trying and continue being a nigt owl then?

  9. "Not Your Concern" | June 14, 2021 at 8:29 pm | Reply

    All this, shenanigans & circus- with “genetics, is ‘to blame’..” | Many of YOU, need to go researching Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work- its NOT, “going to be ‘reported’ on ‘mainstream media’..” either! | “Why the hell not?” | Well, you “see”- IF, you KNEW- about “HOW”, YOUR body- FACT-ually, “operates”- then, you WOULD NOT, “NEED”- “Pharma” & all their- “synthetic, chemical concoctions”.. | THAT, is “why?” | That, and bc many of you- ARE NOT, “ready”- to “admit” OR “acknowledge”, that YOUR OWN, “BEHAVIOR”- YOUR OWN, “habits”- (alongside, being “Socially Conditioned”/”Socially Programmed”..)
    ..YOU, CANT & WONT- “admit” OR “acknowledge”, the “wrong-doings”, that- YOU, have “done”… bc “America”, IS- FACT-ually, “using”- the EXCUSE, of:
    “We’re going to be ‘transparent’, NOW!”
    (which, in essence- you ARE ALLLL- “missing”, that- THAT “statement”, IMPLIES- [1] “THEY”, were NOT- “telling YOU, the truth”- to BEGIN with.. and [2] “THEY”, just “WANT”/”NEED”, YOU- to just, “sweep THEIR actions” & #CrimesAgainstHumanity that, THEY HAVE COMMITTED- “under the rug”, and “move forward”- “while YOU, KEEP- ‘feeding’, ‘enabling’, “condoning”- which, leads to- “allow-ing”, “accept-ing” THEN, “NORMAL-izing”- “things”!)

    I, for ONE- REFUSE, to be “conditioned”- to “accept” these, “idio-logys”, that ARE- “HURTING”, “CAUSING”- YOU, “suffering”…

    ..over WHAT, EXACTLY? #ProfitsOverPeople?! How’s about NOT!

    Don’t worry- YOUR, “body”- WILL, (IF it hasn’t already..) ..tell YOU, “NO, F*U*- THAT, is NOT- ‘how things work’- any more!”
    …MARK. MY. WORDS.
    NOW, you CANT- “claim”, “I didn’t KNOW about THAT..”
    YOU DID- YOU, just ignorantly, “conditionally”- (like a “good puppet”) “ignored it ALLL”- [EVEN, the “signs”- YOUR body, IS- “telling YOU”.. and you KEEP, “trusting” & “believing”- these, “quacks”- who, don’t even have- ALLLL of the “answers”, to start!

    [“College”/”University”- pffft, more like- “Institutions with Hedge Funds attached”- IS, more like it!]

    This, “younger generation”- WILL, “SEE”- “HOW” the #OldAndOutDatedParadigms DO. NOT. “WORK”. ANY. MORE.

    GO & DO, YOUR OWN, “research”!
    Using, “Google”- (an ADVERTISING PLATFORM”, for “research”- WONT, EVER- “get YOU, far”!) ..wont “help”, YOU- “do ANY thing”, in terms of- “UN-learning”- the [intentionally, programmed into YOU-] “habits”, “behavioral patterns”, etc-

    …and UNTIL OR UNLESS, YOU- CAN “man up”/”woman up”.. YOU, wont “get there”! #SorryNotSorry #ISaidIt

  10. #AndrewHubberman #BruceLipton #LynnMcTaggart #GreggBraden #JoeDispenza #AaronDoughty
    Go do some REAL, “research”- besides, “listening to”, “trusting” & “believing”- EVERY. “THING”…

    ..an, “AD-vertis-ing”, [SO-CALLED] “Platform”- IS, “putting up”- as: “news”!
    Open your damn eyes, “people”!

    Your, “meat-head”, “i-know-it-all”, “ego”, “sociopathic-tendencies”, “narcissism”, “contradicting hypocrisy”, etc-
    …is NOT- (unfortunately) “going to ‘help’, YOU”!

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