Circadian Rhythm Disruption Associated with Mood Disorders

A large study confirmed that disruption to the body clock increases the risk of mood disorders and depression

Messing with your body clock - or circadian rhythms, if you prefer long words - seriously increases your risk of mood disorders, the University of Glasgow researchers found.

'This is an important study demonstrating a robust association between disrupted circadian rhythm and mood disorders'.

For the latest study, researchers analysed activity data on 91,105 people to measure their daily rest-activity rhythms (also known as relative amplitude). These subjects were also more likely to have reduced feelings of well-being and lower cognitive functioning, which was measured by a computer-generated test for reaction times. People with less of a distinction between active and resting periods scored a lower amplitude, either because they were not active enough during while they were awake or too active in the hours intended for sleep.

"It's widely known that a good night's sleep is a good thing for well-being and health.

Given that most mental health disorders begin during adolescence, more longitudinal studies in younger populations might improve our understanding of causal mechanisms, and help find new ways to predict mood disorders and fine-tune treatments".

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Professor Daniel Smith, professor of psychiatry at the university, said: 'A healthy rhythm is to be quite active during the day and very inactive at night. Those with lower relative amplitude were at greater risk of mental health problems regardless of age, sex, lifestyle, education and previous childhood trauma. The brain's internal time-keeping system anticipates environmental changes and adapts itself to the appropriate time of day.

Body clock rhythms govern fundamental physiological and behavioural functions - from body temperatures to eating habits - in nearly all living beings. Disruption of the internal body clock can put you at raised risk of mood disorders.

They were also more likely to feel lonely and less happy.

"How do we take account of our natural patterns of rest and activity and how do we design cities or jobs to protect people's mental health?" This information was linked to mental health questionnaires to assess symptoms of mental disorders and subjective wellbeing and cognitive function. "But equally important is a pattern of exposing yourself to sunshine and daylight in the morning and doing activity in the morning or midday so you can actually sleep properly".

"And it's likely they affect each other in a circular fashion", she added.

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