There may be a link between poor sleep and several mental health disorders, according to a new study.
These mental health disorders include anxiety, Tourette syndrome and autism, researchers say, according to a press release from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) released earlier this month.
Scientists from UCI hypothesize that Circadian Rhythm Disruption, or CRD, is a “psychopathology factor” shared by a broad range of mental illnesses, the release shared.
Research into CRD’s “molecular foundation” could be critical to unlocking better treatments for these mental disorders, the scientists also state.
The research on the relationship between sleep and mental disorders was published recently in the journal Translational Psychology.
“Circadian rhythms play a fundamental role in all biological systems at all scales, from molecules to populations,” senior author Pierre Baldi, UCI professor of computer science and director of UCI’s Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics, said in the UCI press release.
“Our analysis found that circadian rhythm disruption is a factor that broadly overlaps the entire spectrum of mental health disorders,” he continued.
The UCI researchers found significant evidence of the connection between sleep disruption and these disorders by carefully examining peer-reviewed literature on the most prevalent mental health disorders, according to the press release.
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“The telltale sign of circadian rhythm disruption – a problem with sleep – was present in each disorder,” lead author Amal Alachkar, neuroscientist and professor in UCI’s department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said in the release.
“While our focus was on widely known conditions including autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder,” she continued, “we argue that the CRD psychopathology factor hypothesis can be generalized to other mental health issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, food addiction and Parkinson’s disease.”
A circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake pattern an individual experiences over the course of a 24-hour day, according to Healthline.com.
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It helps control the daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness, and most living things have one, they add.
“Maintaining healthy habits can help you respond better to this natural rhythm of your body,” the publication notes.
One mother and grandmother from the greater Washington, D.C., area said that good sleep habits, begun early, may help general health and mental outlook, too.
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“Some parents today let their children choose their bedtimes, and I never thought that was a good idea,” she told Fox News Digital. “One proactive measure would be to start healthy sleep patterns when children are young.”
The UCI researchers shared more information on circadian rhythms, too.
“Circadian rhythms are intrinsically sensitive to light/dark cues,” their press release on the new research said, “so they can be easily disrupted by light exposure at night, and the level of disruption appears to be sex-dependent and changes with age.”
They added, “One example is a hormonal response to CRD felt by pregnant women; both the mother and the fetus can experience clinical effects from CRD and chronic stress.”
“An interesting issue that we explored is the interplay of circadian rhythms and mental disorders with sex,” said Baldi. “For instance, Tourette syndrome is present primarily in males, and Alzheimer’s disease is more common in females by a ratio of roughly two-thirds to one-third.”
Scientists also believe that age is also an important factor; CRD can affect the onset of aging-related mental disorders among the elderly, the UCI team notes.
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Alachar also noted the challenges of testing the team’s hypothesis “on a cellular level” in the release.
The UCI-led team suggests an examination of CRD using “transcriptomic (gene expression) and metabolomic technologies in mouse models,” according to the release.
“This will be a high-throughput process with researchers acquiring samples from healthy and diseased subjects every few hours along the circadian cycle,” Baldi said in the press release.
He continued, “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, particularly mice, by sampling tissues from different brain areas and different organs, in addition to serum.”
If the experiments were conducted in “a systematic way with respect to age, sex and brain areas” to investigate circadian molecular rhythmicity “before and during disease progression, it would help the mental health research community identify potential biomarkers, causal relationships, and novel therapeutic targets and avenues,” he noted.