News & Blog

Do Early Birds Have Less Mental Health Problems?

Jan 30, 2019

According to a new study, early risers (or larks) are less likely to develop mental health problems than their counterparts ‘Night Owls’.

The large-scale genetics study found that being biologically programmed to wake up early is linked to greater happiness and a lower risk of schizophrenia and depression. Those who naturally want to go to bed late and wake up late are at greater risk from the mental toll of having to fight their natural body clock. This is due to most schools and work places having early start times which forces owls into an unnatural sleep-wake rhythm.

Am I an owl or a lark?

People are defined as Owls (people who go to bed late and want to wake up late);

Larks (those who go to bed earlier and get up earlier); and Ambivalent (those who are more adaptable to sleep schedules)

It is helpful to know which camp you fit into if you want to improve your sleep. If you try to work against your chronotype you’ll not only have a tougher time falling asleep at night or staying awake during the day, but you’ll also experience more disturbed sleep.

If you want to find out more about Owls and Larks visit our Sleep Hub page “Are you an Owl or a Lark?“.

Night Owls by nature are fighting against their body clock

If a Night Owl has a job that requires them to get up at 6am and they require seven hours of sleep, ideally they need to be in bed by 10.30pm, ready to be asleep by 11pm. However they often don’t feel naturally sleepy before midnight which could lead to lying in bed awake and worrying that they cannot sleep or just going to bed later but cutting short their sleep duration.  Owls strongly dislike waking early and often find it hard to function well.

This leads to not having the amount of sleep they need so sleep deprivation mounts up. And we know that long term sleep deprivation does impact on mental health such as depression and anxiety as well as a host of other health problems (diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke). In an ideal world we would let our own biological clocks dictate the amount of time you spend asleep.

Create the right bedroom environment and start a bedtime routine

If you’re a Night Owl who isn’t getting enough sleep it may be useful to change certain habits and environmental factors. It’s important to remember to not to get too hung on sleep quantity, but focus on sleep quality.

  • Remove electronics from the bedroom. The bedroom should be used for sleep and sex only. Remove the TV and other electronic devices from the bedroom and stop using them an hour before bedtime.
  • Dim the lights. We know that bright light suppresses melatonin levels so keep lights low to help the need to feel sleepy.
  • Keep your cool and keep it quiet. The bedroom shouldn’t be too warm or too cold (16-18 degrees Celsius is ideal). If it’s too hot your body becomes restless, too cold and you’re working hard to get warm, rather than sleep. Where possible, eliminate noise that can be distracting.
  • Get comfy. When it’s time for sleep, you need to be at your most comfy. Make sure your mattress is up to scratch and there’s enough room if you’re sharing a bed.
  • Keep to a regular schedule. Maintaining a regular sleep and wake time helps your internal body clock to get into sync.
  • Make time to relax. If our mind and body is fully rested, sleep comes easier. Read a book, listen to soothing music, meditate or stretch are all great ways to relax body and mind.