People who are genetically programmed to be early risers have a lower risk of schizophrenia or depression, according to a large new genetics study.
“Being a morning person is causally associated with better mental health,” an international team of researchers has reported in the journal Nature Communications.
The study of nearly 700,000 people found 324 new genes associated with the body clock on top of the 24 genes already known to influence whether someone is an early riser or a night owl.
The study found that being biologically programmed to wake up early is linked to greater happiness and a lower risk of schizophrenia and depression.
The researchers said night owls may be at greater risk from the mental toll of having to fight their natural body clock due to most schools and workplaces having early start times.
Ian Hickie of the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney told the ABC that the genetic study backed up what psychiatrists had long thought: that mood disorders were linked to circadian rhythms, not sleep disorders.
“They’ve finally cracked the nut by saying ‘you know what, we were looking at the wrong thing’. It’s not sleep, it’s the body clock,” he said.
Being an evening person does not mean you are poorly motivated, Professor Hickie said.
“There is an idea that morning people are all good, hardworking people, but they are just genetically set that way.”