Disrupted body clock risks mental health issues

Disruption of daily rhythms linked to mental health problems

Disruption of daily rhythms linked to mental health problems

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.

Previous studies have identified associations between disrupted circadian rhythms and poor mental health, but these were on relatively small samples. The disruptions were measured by an accelerometer worn on the subjects' wrists, tracking their levels of activity daily.

Researchers analysed activity data in more than 91,000 participants aged 37-73 from the UK Biobank general population cohort to obtain an objective measure of patterns of rest and activity rhythms.

These disturbances to the body's internal clock, characterised by increased activity during rest periods and/or inactivity during the day, are also associated with mood instability, more subjective loneliness, lower happiness and health satisfaction, and worse cognitive function.

A lower circadian amplitude denotes less distinction, in terms of activity levels, between active and rest periods of the day.

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

Those with a lower amplitude were found to be at higher risk of mental issues, even when factors such as age, sex, smoking status, educational attainment and childhood trauma were taken into account.

Daily circadian rhythms govern fundamental physiological and behavioural functions from body temperature to eating habits in nearly all organisms.

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The Lancet Psychiatry reported people up that late were likely to rate themselves very lonely and not happy.

The scientists studied people's circadian rhythms, which control functions such as immune systems, sleep patterns, and the release of hormones, to measure the daily rest-activity rhythms, also known as the relative amplitude. This information was linked to mental health questionnaires to assess symptoms of mental disorders and subjective wellbeing and cognitive function.

Individuals with lower relative amplitude were found to be at greater risk of several adverse mental health outcomes.

"By 2030, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in cities, and we know that living in an urban environment can be pretty toxic to your circadian system because of all the artificial light that you're exposed to", Smith said. "Hopefully, that will protect a lot of people from mood disorders". They are fundamental for maintaining health in humans, and integrity of circadian rhythms is particularly important for mental health and wellbeing. "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". Circadian rhythms occur in plants, animals and throughout biology.

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

It is best to stop using smartphones after around 10pm, according to a sleep expert.

"It's an exciting time for this kind of research because it's beginning to have some real-world applications", Smith said.

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