Arising early in the morning may lower the risk of depression.

A new study offers more compelling evidence that arising earlier in the morning may provide protection against depression independent of other factors such as diet, exercise, or health conditions such as chronic pain that are associated with depression.

In this new study, researchers compared large groups of people based on genetic variants that are independent of other health or behavioral characteristics — in this case, the tendency toward being a night owl or a morning person which are inherited traits. The scientists used two genetic databases of more than 800,000 adults to do a randomization study of genetic markers of two circadian “types”- larks and owls- and their risk for depression. They not only had genetic data on circadian rhythm type, but also had data on diagnoses of major depression and information on when people went to bed and woke up, collected with both self-reports and sleep laboratory records.

In people with the genetic variants for being an early bird, they found a 23 percent lower risk of major depression for every hour earlier they woke up and arose for the day in a dose-dependent fashion. Conversely, those who arose later in the morning had a corresponding greater risk of depression. These findings suggest that arising earlier in the morning may improve mental health.