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What’s In An Hour? Getting up Earlier Shown to Mitigate Depression By 23%

Mental health is a key priority not just in business but in everyday life. The rate of depression is inevitable as according to BCG, 36% of workers globally have either lost their jobs or reduced their hours.

The world is full of suggestions about how to improve wellbeing, minimise stress and depression.

Some techniques are altruistic in nature - be kind to others to distract focus from yourself. Others propose building resilience and growing a support network to cope with difficult periods. All approaches are possible but new research points to a very simple solution - one that you have heard before in a general context but less so as it relates to depression.

A large-scale study of 840,000 people has been published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers at Harvard, University of Colorado Boulder, and MIT’s Broad Institute find that people’s propensity to sleep at a certain time influences their risk of depression.

This study is among the first to quantify just how much or how little change to rest patterns might directly influence mental health.

As people’s lifestyle habits have changed post-pandemic from a shift to remote working practices, online consumption, and homeschooling, the findings are timely.

This genetic study found that by just shifting your sleep time earlier by one hour would decrease the risk of major depression by a staggering 23%. In other words, you need to wake up earlier by an hour! Greater effects are likely if you retire a little bit earlier too.

That’s not the same as the old adage - get more sleep!

Some people are naturally early-risers. Light and sunshine has a proven positive effect on mood - this partly explains this.

Small changes to habits have a big impact. Of course, implementation of new habits fights with the intention-behaviour gap.

But in moments of dislocation like a pandemic, this is the perfect time to improve lifestyle and well-being habits. While some have fallen victim to the ‘Covid. stone’, not all have. Many have taken the opportunity to embark on massive weight loss programmes.

In my own family, one person lost three stone and another lost an amazing ten stone over a slightly longer period. That’s pure discipline and dedication.

Both have my unbridled admiration!

With suicide risks at an all-time high in many countries, if you‘re depression prone or know others who are, this simple technique is well worth considering.

Make your own day - and others - by just getting up an hour earlier.


Genetically Proxied Diurnal Preference, Sleep Timing, and Risk of Major Depressive Disorder, Lyas Daghlas et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021.

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