Last week, the JAMA Psychiatry Journal published research that related depression to the question, “What is the best time to wake up?” The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard study gathered data from 840,000 adults.
The study participants’ average nightly sleep mid-point occurred at 3:00 a.m. If the participant received only 6 hours of sleep a night, they would sleep from midnight to 6:00 a.m.
Those going to bed at 11:30 p.m. and awakening at 6:30 a.m. got seven hours of sleep. For those getting eight hours, the typical bedtime and wake-up time were 11:00 and 7:00.
Using these average mid-point times, the researchers analyzed the correlation between sleep patterns and the risk of depression. They found that sleepers with later mid-points faced a higher risk.
Shifting a person’s sleep mid-point back by one hour resulted in a 23-percent lower rate of depression. That’s a remarkable improvement, considering that a simple schedule change is all it takes to lower depression rates.
However, what’s even more impressive is that dialing the sleep mid-point back by two hours reduced the depression risk by an incredible 40 percent!
So, what is the best time to wake up if you’re concerned about becoming depressed? Two hours earlier!
Suppose your regular bedtime is 11:30, and you get up at 6:30. How would you need to adjust your sleep schedule to get the same results?
- A 10:30 bedtime and 5:30 wake-up time (2:00 a.m. midpoint) would lower your risk by 23 percent.
- A 9:30 bedtime and 4:30 wake-up time (1:00 a.m. sleep midpoint) would reduce your risk by 40 percent!
Of course, for adults, seven hours of nightly sleep is merely the minimum recommendation. Most adults do better with around eight hours.
So a healthier plan might be to go to bed at 9:30, with a 1:30 a.m. sleep mid-point and a 5:30 a.m. wake-up time.
Think you’re not genetically designed to be an early riser? If so, it’s time for you to think again! Why?
Your Genetics Don’t Decide What Is the Best Time to Wake Up!
The Broad Institute research confirmed a 2018 study from Dr. Céline Vetter, the director of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Lab (CASEL).
Dr. Vetter collected data from 32,000 female nurses with an average age of 55. Her research, however, considered other sleep-related factors that affect depression, in addition to preferred sleep-wake times.
- light exposure
- work schedules
- chronotype (one’s genetic propensity to sleep for a specific time)
In an unexpected result, these three factors only mildly influenced the risk of depression.
Previous studies may have indicated that the makeup of our so-called “clock gene” did correlate with the level of depression risk, but her study showed this correlation was tiny.
The clock gene (PER 2 or RORA) is one of more than 340 common gene types thought to make up an individual’s chronotype. In total, they may affect from 12 to 42 percent of someone’s sleep-timing preference.
Dr. Vetter’s goal was to determine possible links between a nurse’s chronotype and her tendency to become depressed. At the study’s start, all the nurses were depression-free.
She categorized them according to chronotype:
- 37 percent of them claimed to be the Early Type.
- 53 percent of them claimed to be the Intermediate Type.
- 10 percent of them claimed to be the Evening Type.
Her study’s four-year follow-up tracking the incidence of depression produced startling results.
Early risers were 12- to 27-percent less likely to become depressed than the intermediate types. However, the researchers determined that, between the intermediate and late types, the likelihood of becoming depressed was “not statistically significant.”
The truth is that our genetics do not doom us to waking up at a specific time! They may magnify our desire to sleep in, but creating good sleep habits can overcome that compulsion.
No matter your chronotype, the choice is yours.
What is the best time to wake up? According to the most recent research, the answer is an hour or two earlier!