Wake up one hour earlier to cut depression risk by 23%, says science

Sleep is vitally important to your health and wellbeing: this study says an early bedtime can cut your risk of depression

Man waking up early to beat depression
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Depression is a major problem, and one of the biggest "silent killers" of even young and healthy people. The WHO reports that depression affects more than more than 264 million people worldwide. It's a serious issue that can't always be solved with quick lifestyle fixes, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. 

However, there's a popular quote attributed to actor Jim Carrey, which says "I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don't exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren't giving yourself a fighting chance."

In addition to learning to exercise outdoors and eat healthily, waking up early can be added to the list of simple lifestyle changes used to help beat back depression. In one study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, the data of 840,000 people, collected in different ways, were examined for signs of depression, and cross-referenced with their normal sleep patterns. 

Senior author Celine Vetter said: "We have known for some time that there is a relationship between sleep timing and mood, but a question we often hear from clinicians is: How much earlier do we need to shift people to see a benefit? 

Woman sleeping

(Image credit: Kinga Cichewicz/Unsplash)

"We found that even one-hour earlier sleep timing is associated with significantly lower risk of depression."

After studying the sample of data, the researchers found each one hour earlier "sleep midpoint", a point in time halfway between bedtime and wake up time, corresponded with a 23% lower risk of major depressive disorder. If someone goes to bed one hour earlier and sleeps the same amount, their risk of depression is lowered by almost a quarter. Cutting it by two hours leads to a reduction of around 40%.

"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."

You can wake up earlier (and get your mood-boosting dose of vitamin D) with one of the best SAD lamps. This neat device simulates sunlight, allowing you to wake up as if it was sunrise at a time of your choosing. You can also boost the quality of your sleep as you adjust your schedule by upgrading your bed with one of the best mattress toppers.