26/11/2013 06:43 GMT | Updated 26/11/2013 06:43 GMT

Night Owl V Morning Lark: Which One Of You Is More Likely To Have Depression?

While there has been much said about the required hours of sleep needed to function and have a healthy immune system, not a great deal has been known about what your sleep pattern says about you.

Specifically, the difference between 'night owls' - those who prefer to start and finish the day later - and 'morning larks' - those who find they are most productive early in the morning.

The Times reported of a research project that spelled out bad news for owls. When owls are made to follow the same time schedules as larks, it can often lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or depression.

night owl

It wrote: "Researchers in Germany scanned the brains of late chronotypes (owls) and early chronotypes (larks) and discovered that the owls’ white matter was less efficient in the transmission of nerve signals than those who preferred early mornings. This diminished “integrity” of the white matter, which was found in several areas of the brain, may be linked to depression. What causes it isn’t yet clear but the scientists speculate that it could be because the owls suffer a kind of social jet lag by being shoe-horned into a world that is geared to early risers."

The paper quoted Dr Jessica Rosenberg of the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Jülich, Germany as saying: “These late chronotypes have more difficulties with the usual working schedules that start early in the day,” says , and RWTH Aachen University. “Consequently, they develop a sleep deficit.”

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It isn't all bad news for night owls though. In 2009, The Daily Mail reported about a study conducted by Dr Philippe Peigneux, of the University of Liege in Belgium where night owls and morning larks were made to compete against each other in terms of measuring their reaction and attention times.

The newspaper reported: "It found that during the experiment, the volunteers got up and went to bed at their usual times, with the larks tending to turn in four hours earlier than the owls.

"Both did similarly well at the task shortly after getting up. But ten hours into their day, it was the night owls that shone, being both quicker and more alert at the task."

Unfortunately, we can't choose which chronotype we have. The Times adds that it is 50% inherited and 50% set within our bodies by our circadian rhythms, which can be affected by external influences.

The issues arise when we try and alter our natural body rhythms by drinking coffee to stay awake for longer or take other stimulants. Alcohol also affects the quality of sleep a person has, which may make you try and 'catch up' on sleep at the weekend - which experts mostly agree is terrible for your body clock.

HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL TIPS ON HOW TO BE AN EARLY RISER FROM LIFE COACH SOPHIA DAVIS

1. Get to bed before the clock strikes midnight. It has been proven that you get a better quality of sleep before 12 and ancient Chinese practitioners swear by it!

2. Ease yourself out of bed gently. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than you need to get up. Find some nice calm or uplifting music online and download it onto your phone to use as an alarm. It eases you into your day far better than a loud beep and a rush to get up will.

3. Head to the gym or cycle to work. Exercise in the morning will set you up nicely to feel re-energised and ready for your day. Not only this, but you will feel great about yourself having worked your muscles and relaxed and centred your mind before your day really begins.

4. Positive affirmations. Sounds simple, but just by telling yourself that you are going to have a great day and feel energised and happy will make a massive amount of difference. You get back what you put out, and even science is telling us how powerful our thoughts are.

5. Meditation. Sitting quietly for 10 minutes in the morning upright and concentrating on your breath, or listening to a guided re-energising meditation which you can listen to free on YouTube or download online will do wonders for your general well-being. Large companies like Ernst and Young are now introducing meditation into the workplace because its proven effects on wellbeing and concentration amongst other things. Its simple to do, and costs nothing, so give it a go and watch yourself go from strength to strength.

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