Mood disturbances and depression linked to disrupted sleep routines finds study

Mental health tracker?     Stephen VanHorn

The researchers found that those who did not follow the natural rhythm had a greater likelihood of major depression or bipolar disorder and were also more likely to suffer worse wellbeing such as lower happiness levels.

"What that tells us is about the inconsistency or the disruption in the regularity of the routine of rest and activity", said Smith.

"To look at this in more detail, it will be useful for future studies to track participants' rest-activity patterns over time to see whether disturbed rhythms can predict whether someone is more likely to go on to develop a mood disorder", commented author Dr Laura Lyall from the University of Glasgow. He called this a public health issue.

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 found that maintaining a healthy internal body clock, which basically means staying more active during the day and sleeping properly at night, has a positive impact on the overall health of a person. They obtained health data and information on over 500,000 participants since 2006.

"[It collects] 100 movement data points in three dimensions per second over a seven [day] period", said Smith. They recorded the activity of the individuals during the 10 active hours a day and compared it to the least active 5 hours a day. A circadian relative amplitude variable was derived from these data, and the correlation with mood disorder, well-being, and cognitive variables was assessed.

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However, the new study is the first to use objective measurements of daily activity and is among the largest of its kind, according to Aiden Doherty, senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the research.

Humans have been shown to be either "owls" or "larks", corresponding to so-called genetic "chronotypes" that determine whether we function better at night or during the day. While not all participants who wore a tracker answered all questions, the team say the sample is large enough to unpick links. The final results were calculated on the basis of the relative amplitudes of the population.

The groups were found to be of almost equal size.

The findings reveal that once factors including age, sex, season during which the tracker was worn, socioeconomic status, smoking status and experience of childhood trauma were taken into account, a low relative amplitude appeared to be linked to poorer mental health.

Messing with the natural rhythm of one's internal clock may boost the risk of developing mood problems ranging from garden-variety loneliness to severe depression and bipolar disorder, researchers said Wednesday. As the amplitudes decreased reaction times also reduced and so did the measures of happiness and satisfaction with one's health.

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