Tip: Is Your Chronotype Making You Depressed?

Could THIS be making depressive symptoms worse? According to science, yes. Here's what you need to know.

Sleep, Fatness, and Sadness

We know from previous research that your sleeping pattern – whether you're a night owl or an early bird – can affect your eating habits and metabolism. In a nutshell, people who stay up late tend to be fatter, even if they consume the same number of calories as the "early to bed, early rise" types.

Yes, daily calorie intake matters most in the long run, but as the science guys say, the timing of energy (calorie) intake can have a big impact on your metabolism. Basically, late-night eating seems to do more damage than early-day eating or "frontloading" calories.

We also know from previous studies that there's a link between depression and binge eating. Which comes first, the depressed egg or the gluttonous chicken, is a matter of debate.

And now, thanks to a new study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, we know there could be a link between your chronotype – the time of day in which you sleep – and depression.

Researchers studied over 32,000 female nurses who did not suffer from depression and followed them for four years. First they figured out their chronotypes and categorized them as early risers, late nighters, or intermediate types.

After four years, those who went to bed early and woke up early (morning people) were 12-27% less likely to be diagnosed as depressed by a doctor, self-report depressive symptoms, or be medicated for depression.

The exact reasons for this aren't clear, and this doesn't mean all night owls will get depressed, but it does seem to increase the odds.

I've been keeping an eye on sleep research for over 20 years and there just doesn't seem to be any benefit to the "stay up late" sleep pattern. From mood disorders to body fat, it looks like early to bed and early to rise does indeed make you healthy... maybe even wealthy and wise.

Researchers note that it's usually unmarried folks who stay up late, and that makes sense socially. But it doesn't do your physique or mental health any favors.

If you have the choice, try to become a morning person. It's stupidly easy – you just get your ass to bed earlier. If you need help winding down and staying asleep, look into ZMA®. Take 3 capsules an hour before you plan to hit the sack.

After a few nights you may be surprised to learn that you're an early bird after all. (From an evolutionary perspective, we all are. Our bodily systems were naturally synched with the sunrise and sunset, at least before electricity mucked things up. Stupid light bulbs.)

Also, remember that depression has been linked to magnesium deficiency and even taking seemingly unrelated over-the-counter and prescription drugs. (See Common Drugs That Secretly Cause Depression.)

Given the possible nasty side effects of mood meds, maybe going to bed earlier, taking supplemental magnesium, and avoiding certain drugs could alleviate depressive symptoms in many borderline-depressed people.

  1. Vetter C et al. Prospective study of chronotype and incident depression among middle- and older-aged women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. J Psychiatr Res. 2018 Aug;103:156-160. PMC.
Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram