The COVID-19 pandemic forced billions of people into work from home arrangements, however one of the perks of that shift could contribute to higher rates of depression, a new study has found.
"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?" said assistant professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder and senior author Celine Vetter.
"We found that even one-hour earlier sleep timing is associated with significantly lower risk of depression."
The study of 840,000 people found that the average sleep mid-point was 3am, meaning the average person went to bed at 11pm and rose at 6am.
Every one-hour earlier sleep mid-point led to a 23 per cent lower risk of a major depressive disorder. The researchers also found that those with a genetic predisposition to rise early have a lower risk of developing depression.
That indicates that if someone who normally goes to sleep at 1am instead chose to go to bed at midnight and rise an hour earlier would cut their depression risk by 23 per cent and then if they were to push that back to 11pm, they’d reduce it even further.
"We live in a society that is designed for morning people, and evening people often feel as if they are in a constant state of misalignment with that societal clock," said lead author Iyas Daghlas, M.D.
However, the researchers said more studies need to be completed into whether early risers could benefit by waking even earlier, and that a large randomised clinical trial is still required to find out whether going to bed earlier can definitively reduce depression risk.
A study from Sleep as Android of 100,000 users found around 50 per cent were waking up an hour later since the pandemic started, as non-existent commutes saw more workers hit the snooze button.
South Australia Water analysis also found that peak water demand has shifted from 7am-8am to 9am-10am as people work from home.
Vetter said those looking to improve their sleep patterns should make some simple changes.
"Keep your days bright and your nights dark," she said.
"Have your morning coffee on the porch. Walk or ride your bike to work if you can, and dim those electronics in the evening."