Defying body clock linked to depression and lower wellbeing
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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 published in Molecular Psychiatry, also found that being genetically programmed to be an early riser is protective against major depression, and improves wellbeing.

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.

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 patterns between work and free days.

Researchers 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.

"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."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced 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," says the senior author.

Molecular Psychiatry