Circadian rhythm disruption and mental health

Transl Psychiatry. 2020 Jan 23;10(1):28. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-0694-0.


Circadian rhythms are internal manifestations of the solar day that permit adaptations to predictable environmental temporal changes. These ~24-h rhythms are controlled by molecular clockworks within the brain that are reset daily to precisely 24 h by exposure to the light-dark cycle. Information from the master clock in the mammalian hypothalamus conveys temporal information to the entire body via humoral and neural communication. A bidirectional relationship exists between mood disorders and circadian rhythms. Mood disorders are often associated with disrupted circadian clock-controlled responses, such as sleep and cortisol secretion, whereas disruption of circadian rhythms via jet lag, night-shift work, or exposure to artificial light at night, can precipitate or exacerbate affective symptoms in susceptible individuals. Evidence suggests strong associations between circadian rhythms and mental health, but only recently have studies begun to discover the direct interactions between the circadian system and mood regulation. This review provides an overview of disrupted circadian rhythms and the relationship to behavioral health and psychiatry. The focus of this review is delineating the role of disruption of circadian rhythms on mood disorders using human night shift studies, as well as jet lag studies to identify links. We also review animal models of disrupted circadian rhythms on affective responses. Lastly, we propose low-cost behavioral and lifestyle changes to improve circadian rhythms and presumably behavioral health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mood Disorders
  • Sleep