For some people, the perfect evening is going to bed by 9 p.m. so they can be up for an early morning workout. But for others, that ideal night includes way more activity — maybe even binge-watching “The West Wing” on Netflix until 3 a.m.?
The divide between early birds and night owls has long been established. Early birds get the worm, but night owls always seem to have more fun. The most successful people talk about waking up in the wee hours of the morning to start their days. But there’s a reason why people are so interested in these 4 a.m. routines — they’re foreign to readers who like to sleep during those same hours.
Though some of the differences between early birds and the rest of the world are fairly apparent, there’s one distinction that may not come to mind off the bat. Elucidated by research this year, it seems that middle-aged and older women who are early birds are less inclined to experience depression than the rest of their peers.
Over four years, researchers at the University of Colorado — Boulder and other major institutions analyzed data about more than 32,000 nurses who averaged 55 years old and who in 2009 were depression-free. As time passed, nurses who were early birds had a 12-27% lower risk of developing depression than those who said they were “intermediate types” — neither early birds nor night owls. People who preferred later schedules saw the opposite effect; they were more inclined to experience depression, though those results weren’t statistically significant.
This means that at least for middle-aged to older women, how early or late they rise may impact their likelihood of depressive symptoms — even if the influence is modest. So what should late risers do?
Céline Vetter, director of the Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Laboratory (CASEL) at CU Boulder and lead author of the study, says that night owls can try to adjust their schedules so they get enough sleep, exercise, and time in the daylight. After all, though some women may be more inclined toward a certain sleep schedule, they have complete control over when they get up and go to bed.
Setting that 6 a.m. alarm may make you groan, but if it’s for your health, it could be worth it. And just think of how much you’ll get done before the sunrise!