We all know just how important it is to have a good nights rest, unfortunately for many of us, this is a fleeting dream. New research has emerged showing just how impactful a disrupted body clock and natural circadian rhythm can be for our mental health.
Researchers from the U.K. came to this conclusion after studying the circadian rhythm, which is our natural waking and sleeping patterns throughout the 24-hour sleep cycle.
Lead author of the study, Laura Lyall, a research associate in mental health and well-being at Glasgow University said in a statement, “In the largest such study ever conducted, we found a robust association between disruption of circadian rhythms and mood disorders.
“Previous studies have identified associations between disrupted circadian rhythms and poor mental health, but these were only small samples.”
Scientists from the University of Glasgow studied data collected on over 90,000 adults between the ages of 37 and 73 years old in the U.K., between 2006 and 2010. Each participant in the study wore an activity tracker on their wrist for 7 days between 2013 and 2015.
The data that was collected was used to calculate what is known as the relative amplitude. Researchers took note of how active the participants were in the busiest 10 hours of each day and compared that to their least active 5 hours in the day. The people with less of a distinction between active and resting periods scored a lower amplitude indicating that they were either not active enough during the day while they were awake or too active during the hours that are generally intended for sleep.
Those who scored a lower amplitude were found to be at a greater risk for mental illness. Factors such as age, sex, smoking, childhood trauma, and educational attainment were also taken into account.
The study, published in The Lancet, showed how they were 6 percent more likely to develop depression and 11 percent more likely to have bipolar disorder. This particular group of participants were also more likely to feel unhappy, alone, unsatisfied with their health and even have slower reaction times.
Around one in 25 participants were about as active during the day as they were at night. These were “people who have very poor sleep hygiene, people on their mobile phones at midnight checking Facebook or getting up to make a cup of tea in the middle of the night,” Daniel Smith, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study, told the Times.
“It could be that there is a direct causal link where circadian disruption causes impaired subjective well-being and increases the risk of mood disorder. Or it could be the opposite, that this circadian disruption is a consequence of mood disorder and its associated risk factors,” said Lyall.
Despite these limitations, the researchers say accelerometry-derived relative amplitude is “relatively cheaply and easily measured and might be useful for identifying people at greater risk of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, or subgroups of patients who might benefit from therapies aimed at improving circadian rhythmicity.”
Can You Relate?
I don’t know about you, but when I am restless at night or don’t get enough sleep I definitely feel it more during the day, with some mental fogginess and I find it much more difficult to find motivation during the day. Aside from the fact that we are on average not getting enough sleep, we, generally are out of sync with our natural circadian rhythms by being up late or sleeping well into the morning, regardless of the sunrise and sunset. Throw cell phones, tablets, blue light and EMF’s into the mix and it’s no wonder we aren’t finding the time to sleep and when we do, to actually sleep deeply.
While it can be difficult to change your sleeping patterns, it certainly could provide you with an extra boost of energy, clarity and perhaps even joy throughout your day. A good night’s rest is essential, some of the things you can do to ensure you are getting a good sleep are as follows:
- Limit screen time to no later than one hour before bed, and use a blue light filter, or blue blocker glasses anytime you are staring at a screen when it is dark outside.
- Try to go to bed a little earlier and wake up earlier. It is essential that we expose ourselves to total darkness while we sleep, it may be worth getting some really good curtains or an eye mask. Depending on where you live, waking up at sunrise and going to bed at sunset might be worth a try.
- Keep cell phones and if possible all electronics out of your bedroom. Consider turning off your wifi router while you sleep at night as well as these have been known to disrupt melatonin production in the brain, which is essential for a good night’s rest.
- Be sure and get some exercise during the day, even a brisk walk in the evening can help you to sleep better at night, but the more the better as your body will truly be tired and ready for bed. When we don’t get enough exercise sometimes our bodies are left feeling restless during the day.
- Nothing beats a nice hot bath with epsom salts and lavender essential oil to help get you in a calm, relaxed and sleepy state of mind before bed.
What helps you get to bed at night?