Your mental health and circadian rhythms are closely connected

02 Dec 2020

If you struggle with sleep deprivation, then you’ll know in your bones what the science says about our circadian rhythms and mental health. There is a deep connection between the two.

Scientists now think that disruption to the body’s internal clocks puts people at increased risk of mental health disorders.

The evidence

A Lancet Psychiatry study of 91,000 people, for example, found that a disrupted internal clock was linked with depression and bipolar disorder.

The researchers found that people who were less active in the daytime and more active at night were more likely to have depression and bipolar disorder. They were also less likely to describe themselves as happy, and more likely to say they were often lonely.

A warning to our 24-hour society

It is important to point out that we do not know for sure whether this is cause or effect. Does a disrupted daily rhythm directly cause mood disorders? Or is a disrupted rhythm simply a symptom of depression? Could there even be an underlying condition causing both?

However, the researchers said these findings are a warning to our 24-hour “society becoming less in tune with people’s natural rhythms”.

Shift work, the lack of structure caused by working from home – these trends in our working lives may cause real damage to our wellbeing.

Learn about your body clock

We need more research to find out the true connection between mental health and circadian rhythms.

But on a personal level, a great first step is to learn about your circadian rhythm and discover your chronotype.