Waking up just 1 Hour Earlier Cuts Depression Risk by Double Digits, study finds

The temptation to sleep in when our schedules allow can be hard to resist. However, a recent study found that by waking up an hour earlier you can reduce risk for depression by 24%. (1)

Study: Wake Up Early To Cut Depression

The study by researchers at University of Colorado Boulder and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, provides evidence that a person’s sleep schedule can influence risk for depression. Known as chronotype, people tend to sleep and wake at certain times. The study looked at a specific time period that can help positively influence mental health. (1)

“We found that even one-hour earlier sleep timing is associated with significantly lower risk of depression,” says senior author Celine Vetter, assistant professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder. (1)

Should You Wake Up Early To Cut Depression?

Studies in the past have shown people who go to bed late are twice as likely to experience depression compared to their early rising counterparts. This is regardless of the duration of sleep for either group. Since mood disorders lead to sleep pattern disruptions, it is difficult for studies to understand if sleep causes depression, or depression interferes with sleep. It is very much a chicken before the egg conundrum. (1)

While there have been several studies on the subject of sleep and mood or depression, they’ve either been with smaller groups, or dependent on self-reporting by participants, making them inherently more subjective. As well, many studies did not include environmental factors. However, this recent study looked at 840,000 people, which is a very large group for such a study. (1)

Previous Studies On Early Waking

The senior author of the study had researched 32,000 nurses in 2018 for four years. This study showed the nurses who rose earlier were up to 27% less likely to develop depression. However, the term early riser can pose it’s own issue. Therefore, the question turned to whether it was early rising or earlier rising that was making the impact. (1)

Author Iyas Daghlas, M.D., studied data from the DNA testing company 23 and Me and the biomedical database UK Biobank. Daghlas used “Mendelian randomization” to leverage genetic associations to consider cause and effect. “Our genetics are set at birth so some of the biases that affect other kinds of epidemiological research tend not to affect genetic studies,” says Daghlas.(1)

Why You Should Wake Up Early To Cut Depression

Researchers looked at people with the “clock gene” PER2, which influences chronotype, explaining 12-42% of someone’s sleep timing preference. By using data from 85,000 participants who wore sleep trackers for 7 days and 250,000 who completed sleep-preference questionnaires, the study tracked sleep influences down to the hour. The average participant went to bed at 11 p.m. and got up at 6 a.m. The study found that for every one-hour earlier sleep midpoint they saw a 23% lower risk of major depressive disorder. (1)

How To Wake Up Early To Cut Depression

“Keep your days bright and your nights dark,” says Vetter. “Have your morning coffee on the porch. Walk or ride your bike to work if you can, and dim those electronics in the evening.” (1)

If you normally go to bed at 1 am and switch to going to sleep at midnight and sleep the same amount of time, you could reduce your risk for depression by 23%. The earlier you go to bed, the more you can cut your risk. (1)


  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210528114107.htm 

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