How going to bed past midnight could affect your mental health

  • Going to bed after 1 a.m. may have a negative impact on mental health, according to a new study.
  • Researchers say an individual’s chronotype — whether they are a morning person or evening person — had little to do with these findings.
  • Later bedtimes may result in less REM sleep, which helps the brain to function optimally.

If you go to bed later than 1 a.m., you could be at a higher risk of developing mental health issues, whether you are a morning person or a night owl. That is the conclusion of a new observational study from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.

The study finds that people who go to bed before 1 a.m. are generally healthier mentally, with fewer reported cases of mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Sleep researchers have been intrigued for years with the concept of chronotypes, meaning one’s preference for the time of each 24-hour day they prefer to be awake or sleeping.

Individual circadian rhythms may lead to personal preferences for sleep. Some people seem to prefer getting up and going to bed early, while others prefer to get up late and go to bed late.

A surprising finding of the study is that when evening people go to sleep after 1 a.m. — which would be in alignment with their chronotype — they experienced the poorest mental health. The group with the fewest mental health diagnoses were morning people who got to bed by 1 a.m.

The researchers analyzed data for community-dwelling adults in the UK Biobank. The study cohort consisted of 73,888 people, of which 56% were female. The mean age of the participants was 63.5 years, and they slept, on average, seven hours per daily sleep cycle.

The study is published in Psychiatry Research.

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