May 21, 2018

New study links body clock to mood disorders

16 May 2018, 10:51 | Winifred Adams

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When the Body's Clock Goes Awry Mood Disorders Could Follow

The researchers found that lower relative amplitude was associated with a greater odds of reporting lifetime history of major depression or bipolar disorder. This can be due to reduced activity during waking periods or increased activity during rest periods.

The study found those who did not follow the natural cycle were more likely to have mood disorders such as severe depression and bipolar disorder.

"Although several studies have identified associations between disrupted circadian rhythmicity and adverse mental health outcomes, much of this work has limitations", they wrote.

The scientists examined people's circadian rhythms, which control functions such as sleep patterns, immune systems and the release of hormones, to measure daily rest-activity rhythms, also known as relative amplitude.

The researchers used activity data on 91,105 participants in the UK Biobank cohort to obtain an objective measure of daily rest-activity rhythms, called relative amplitude. And these results held true when adjusting for age, sex, lifestyle, education, body mass index and childhood trauma, the researchers say.

Those who are inactive during the day and more active or restless at night have an increased risk of depression, bipolar disorder and low mood.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom noted that a regular sleep-wake cycle is "crucial" for mental health and well-being, as they associate certain forms of disruption with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

This study was funded by the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine.

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The study can not say conclusively that body clock disturbances are what caused the mental risk, instead of the other way round.

"While our findings can't tell us about the direction of causality, they reinforce the idea that mood disorders are associated with disturbed circadian rhythms, and we provide evidence that altered rest-activity rhythms are also linked to worse subjective wellbeing and cognitive ability", said Dr Lyall.

It's also possible that both sleep cycles and mood disorders are caused by another underlying factor we don't know about yet. It measured people's mood, activity levels and mental health problems at different times, with some mood measurements taken before activity levels and some afterwards.

The age group in the study is 37 to 73 and so skewed towards middle-aged and older people, who may be less likely to experience mental health problems for the first time.

Interestingly it's not just disrupted sleep that can upset the fine balance of your circadian rhythm, it's also important to be active during the day and inactive at night - so that evening gym session probably isn't for the best.

Sleep hygiene - such as turning off screens before bed time and ensuring the bedroom is quiet, dark and cool - can help.

"Especially in the winter, making sure you get out in the morning in the fresh air is just as important in getting a good night's sleep as not being on your mobile phone", said Smith.

Some researchers believe modern life may be the reason for this trigger.

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