Circadian Rhythm Disruptions Linked to Mental Health Problems

Share on Pinterest
Mental health disorders and disruption of the circadian rhythm are closely associated, according to a new analysis. NICK VEASEY/SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

We include products that we believe will be useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here is our process.

  • A new study reveals a striking association between people who have trouble sleeping and people who have mental health problems.
  • The study authors focused primarily on autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder, but believe their findings may apply to other mental health conditions as well. as well.
  • Lack of sleep has already been linked to a range of health problems, including mental health disorders.

Worldwide, only 1 in 10 people say they “sleep extremely well,” according to Philips Global Sleep Survey 2019. Most of the adults in this survey, about 62%, said they slept “fairly well or not at all”.

These sleep problems are associated with various mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder.

Of the 300 million people around the world who suffer from depression, research suggests that 75% also suffer from insomnia.

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) explores the link between difficulty sleeping and a range of mental health disorders.

Amal Alachkar, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, said in a press release, “The telltale sign of circadian rhythm disruption – a sleep problem – was present in each disorder.”

“While we focused on widely known conditions including autism, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, we argue that the CRD psychopathological factor hypothesis can be generalized to other mental health conditions, such as the disorder compulsive disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, food addiction, and Parkinson’s disease,” Dr. Alachkar continued.

The results were recently published in Translational psychiatry.

For the study, researchers looked at the link between CRD and a number of different mental disorders and mental health conditions.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): The National Autism Society describes autism as “a lifelong developmental disorder that affects the way people communicate and interact with the world.” (Autism is not universally considered a mental disorder.)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a condition in which a person, often a child, has difficulty concentrating, exhibits inappropriate physical movements, and acts impulsively without thinking about the consequences.
  • Bipolar Disorder (BPD): People with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings that last for days or weeks, marked by periods of abnormal happiness or irritability that alternate with periods of depressed sadness.
  • Tourette’s syndrome: Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder in which a person produces “tics”: sudden, rapid, repetitive, unwanted movements or vocal sounds.
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder: Schizophrenia alters a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behavior to such an extent that they may seem to others as if they have lost touch with reality.
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): MDD refers to a condition in which a person experiences prolonged bouts of depression most of the time over a period of weeks, interfering with their ability to function.
  • Anxiety disorder: The anxiety disorder causes a person to live in a persistent state of anxiety or terror.
  • Alzheimer’s disease (AD): As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, a person’s memory and thinking become severely degraded over time.

“An interesting question we explored is the interaction of circadian rhythms and mental disorders with sex,” said lead author Pierre Baldi, Ph.D., study author and Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at the UCI, in a press release. “For instance, Tourette’s syndrome is present mainly in men, and Alzheimer’s disease is more common in women by a ratio of about two-thirds to one-third.

The body’s internal 24-hour or circadian clock regulates important daily routines such as sleep and wakefulness, body temperature, eating, digestion, and hormonal activity.

The researchers reviewed the existing literature on circadian rhythm disturbance (CRD) or sleep disruption and noted that CRD in early life may affect neurodevelopment and promote mental health disorders later in life. aging.

According to a press release, the researchers hypothesized that “CRD is a psychopathological factor shared by a wide range of mental illnesses.” Researchers believe that studying the molecular underpinnings of CRD could unlock better therapies and treatments for various mental disorders.

Jonathan Cedernaes, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Uppsala University who was not involved in the study, said Medical News Today:

“This review highlights the fact that sleep disturbances and circadian disturbances are very common in mental disorders. Based on animal data, it can also be hypothesized that circadian disruption during pregnancy may alter offspring outcomes, including for mental health or risk of psychiatric illness.

Stress or mental health issues can affect a person’s sleep-wake cycle, as can working night shifts, changing time zones, or simply being a night owl.

“It is important to note that there are [an] inter-individual variation in our sleep-wake patterns, so not everyone is alike,” said Dr. Cedernaes. “This variation is partly related to biological preference, but also partly due to occupational or social constraints.”

Alicia Roth, Ph.D., of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, not involved in the study, said DTM:

“It is interesting to examine the link between circadian rhythm disorders and mental health, especially in people with delayed circadian rhythm disorder, i.e. extreme night owls.”

“These are usually teenagers and young adults. With a delayed rhythm, their preferred sleep schedule (i.e. early morning bedtime, late morning bedtime [or] early afternoon wake-up time) is incompatible with what is socially acceptable.

Dr. Roth suggests that mental health issues may be linked to the stigma these people experience because of their schedules.

“In addition to biological influences, I believe that stigma plays an important role in people with delayed rhythm developing adverse psychological outcomes related to their preferred sleep schedule.”

–Alicia Roth, PhD

An obvious question that remains unanswered in the study is whether CRD causes mental health problems or whether mental health problems lead to CRD, or whether they are both independently related to similar root causes.

The authors suggest that future research could answer this question by investigating CRD at the molecular level. They propose to explore gene expression and metabolomic technologies in mice as a starting point.

“It will be a high-throughput process, with researchers acquiring samples from healthy and diseased subjects every few hours throughout the circadian cycle,” Professor Baldi said. said.

“This approach can be applied with limitations in humans since only serum samples can really be used, but it could be applied on a large scale in animal models, especially mice, by taking tissues from different brain areas. and different organs, in addition to serum,” he continued.

If a causal link between CRD and mental health is supported by further research, a person could one day avoid mental health problems by staying in sync with their own circadian rhythm.

“You can keep a diary of your sleep-wake schedule. This can clearly indicate if the schedule is too irregular and perhaps help to improve it,” suggested Dr. Cedernaes.

According to Dr. Roth, if people are left on their own with no responsibilities (i.e., no school, kids, work, or need to be on any schedule) , how well do they sleep and what time do they naturally fall asleep and wake up?

“It’s important to try to capture what a person’s body wants to do when limitations and schedules are removed,” Dr. Roth said.

“A person can [also] have a delayed rhythm, but their sleep rhythm suits them because they have [in]flexible school, work or personal commitments,” she added. “Often they just need confirmation that their ‘unusual’ sleep times are good as long as they’re getting enough sleep and functioning the way they want.”

According to Dr. Cedernaes, “ideally, one should, for example, wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, and also eat at the same time every day”.

“We also encourage good basic sleep habits,” Dr. Roth said. “The most important thing being: don’t try to force yourself to sleep, only go to bed when you’re sleepy, and don’t linger in bed in the morning to nap.”


About Author

Comments are closed.