Irregular Sleep Schedules Connected to Depression

depression
Image by KLEITON Santos from Pixabay.

People whose waking hours vary from day to day may find themselves in bad mood. A study from the University of Michigan, United States suggests that an irregular sleep schedule can increase the risk of depression in the long term as much as sleeping fewer hours in general or staying up late most nights.

Even when it comes to just their mood the next day, people whose waking hours vary from day to day can find themselves in a bad mood, according to a research published in the scientific journal ‘npj Digital Medicine’.

The study is done on resident intern doctors 

The new work is based on data collected by tracking the sleep and other activities of resident intern doctors through devices they wore on their wrists. They were asked to report their daily mood on a mobile app and submit to quarterly tests for signs of depression.

Residents, as they are called in their first year of training after Medical School, experience the long and intense work hours. Also, they do irregular work hours that are the hallmark of this era in medical education. These factors, which change from day to day, altered their ability to have regular sleep schedules.

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Their devices showed they had variable sleep schedules were more likely to score higher on standardized depression symptom questionnaires. Additionally, they have lower daily mood scores. Those who habitually stayed up late, or those who slept fewer hours, also scored higher on depression symptoms and lower on daily mood. The results add to what is already known about the relationship between sleep, daily mood, and long-term risk of depression.

Findings pretend not to guide self-management on sleep habits

Advanced wearable technology allows us to study the behavioral and physiological factors of mental health, including sleep. And the technology also allows on a much larger scale and with more precision than before, opening up an exciting field of exploration. Our findings pretend not to only guide self-management on sleep habits, but also inform on institutional programming structures, explains the lead author of the research, Yu Fang.

This research team has been studying the mood and risk of depression of first-year resident physicians for more than a decade. Specifically, this study collected an average of two weeks of data. This began from before the physicians’ internship years, and an average of almost four months of follow-up throughout their internship year.

Wearable devices that estimate sleep are now used by millions of people, including the Fitbit devices used in the study. Also, researchers used other activity trackers, and smart watches. “These devices, for the first time, allow us to record sleep for extended periods of time without effort on the part of the user. We still have questions about the accuracy of the sleep predictions made by consumer tracker. Initial work suggests a performance similar to that of clinical and research grade acti-graphy devices. 

Young people participated in the study

The team points out the relatively young group of people who participated in the study are around 27 years. However, since they all have experienced similar workloads and schedules, they are a good group in which to test hypotheses. The researchers hope that other groups will study other populations using similar devices and approaches.

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