Night owl or morning lark? Those forced to rise against natural body clock likely to suffer depression: Study
The pandemic has forced upon us lifestyles that we were not programmed for. Travel time is out due to lockdowns in most places, at least in India. People get up and gear up for workday - meetings et all - all in a virtual mode, going nowhere physically. Exercise, walks, eating routines etc are off the normal mark. Our sleep hours have altered. Early risers still find some semblance of normalcy, but those of us who were given to staying up till late and waking at leisurely hours find it difficult o adjust. People whose sleep pattern goes against their natural body clock are more likely to have depression and lower levels of wellbeing, according to a large-scale new study.Research led by the University of Exeter, published in Molecular Psychiatry, also found the most robust evidence to date that being genetically programmed to be an early riser is protective against major depression and improves wellbeing. Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the study is titled "Using Mendelian Randomization methods to understand whether the diurnal preference is causally related to mental health". Researchers suggest this may be because society is set up to be more aligned to early risers, through the standard 9-5 working pattern. The world runs to a clock and schedule. If your natural sleep habits, or circadian rhythms, are aligned with traditional 9 to 5 work schedules, you will fare much better than the night-owl type who work better in afternoons, and sleep late, says the new study.The ones whose body clock is primed for late in the day performance have to defy the internal body clock to work according to the world's normal schedules. Senior author Dr Jessica Tyrrell, of the University of Exeter, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new flexibility in working patterns for many people. Our research indicates that aligning working schedules to an individual's natural body clock may improve mental health and wellbeing in night owls."Lead author Jessica O'Loughlin, of the University of Exeter, said: "We found that people who were misaligned from their natural body clock were more likely to report depression, anxiety and have lower wellbeing. We also found the most robust evidence yet that being a morning person is protective of depression and improves wellbeing.We think this could be explained by the fact that the demands of society mean night owls are more likely to defy their natural body clocks, by having to wake up early for work."How to reset your Circadian Rhythm and get some sleep: A write-up in Harvard.edu has some advice on understanding our internal body clock and resetting our Circadian rhythm if it is disrupting our sleep pattern. An internal master clock — a cluster of 20,000 neurons in the brain just above the optic nerve — controls our circadian rhythms, says the Harvard report. This internal master clock responds to the light and other cues from the environment, it coordinates the functions of different body systems over a 24-hour period and regulates when we sleep and wake. When seasons change or the environment in which we arrive (such as after a long flight to some other time zone) changes, our internal clock uses environmental cues to gradually reset itself, at an average rate of an hour a day. That explains the horribly lost feeling that people develop when jetlagged after crossing several time zones within a matter of hours. There isn’t enough time for your internal clock to synchronise your body with the new time zone.The key is to identify our individual “chronotype” (the genetically determined internal clock that governs your optimum sleep and activity times) – then proactively manage our daily circadian rhythm, says a report in the Financial Times. Here's one more reason in COVID-19 pandemic time why you must get the requisite amount of sleep and avoid depression. The FT article says that the link between circadian health and immunity is already established. Vaccinations may even be less effective when administered to those who are sleep-deprived, it says - citing an article published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.