New research identifies different sleep and circadian rhythm profiles in seasonal depression

New research identifies different sleep and circadian rhythm profiles in seasonal depression

New research identifies different sleep and circadian rhythm profiles in seasonal depression

Do you experience sleep disturbances during the winter months? If so, there’s a good chance these disorders come from seasonal depression. A study published in Journal of Psychiatric Research studies the different patterns and profiles of these sleep disorders in hopes of improving future treatments.

Seasonal depression is a type of mood disorder associated with a specific time of year, usually winter. Due to poor lighting in winter in many places, treatments such as light therapy are used for seasonal depression in addition to more traditional treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotropic medications.

Sleep and circadian rhythms are thought to play a key role in seasonal depression, but they are heterogeneous and occur in different ways, requiring different treatments. This study aims to better understand the different patterns and typologies of sleep disorders associated with seasonal depression to aid in future interventions and treatments.

In the study, Delainey L. Wescott of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues used 103 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 who were recruited through a research registry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All data was collected during the winter months, between December 21st and March 21st. Participants conducted a clinical interview that assessed seasonal depression and other DSM-5 diagnoses, as well as changes in mood, behavior, appetite, sleep, energy, weight, and social behavior across the seasons.

Participants measured the circadian phase biomarker under laboratory conditions over a period of six hours. Participants wore a watch that measured actigraphy data, including sleep onset, total sleep time, sleep efficiency and sleep midpoint, awakening after sleep onset, and more, for 5 to 14 days. Finally, participants completed sleep diaries for 5 to 14 days.

The results showed that there are many identifiable patterns and profiles of sleep and circadian disorders. This included the “disturbed sleep” cluster and the “advanced” cluster. The former consisted of irregular, fragmented, less efficient sleep, and the latter was characterized by longer, earlier sleep and a circadian rhythm.

Although different clusters were identified, these different profiles did not differ significantly in depression severity or diagnoses. These different clusters have implications for treatment and intervention.

This study suggests that the “disturbed sleep” group may benefit from CBT-I to stabilize sleep, while the “advanced” group may respond better to behavioral activation so that they socialize instead of settling down early.

This study made significant strides toward a better understanding of the different profiles of sleep disorders associated with seasonal depression, with implications for treatment. Nevertheless, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that the study accepted 5 days and more for actigraphy measurements, but there are previous studies saying that the measurement is not as valid or reliable when used for less than 7 nights.

In addition, the sample size was too small for cluster analysis; future research may extend this study with a larger and more diverse sample.

“Treatment of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders in seasonal depression may benefit from an individually tailored, precision medical approach,” the researchers concluded. ‚ÄúChanging the perspective of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders in seasonal depression from uniform hypersomnia and phase delay to a more accurate heterogeneous presentation will be more effective in identifying the most promising interventions. Identifying key factors in sleep-related pathophysiology in seasonal depression may shorten time to remission and reduce relapse rates.”

‚ÄúReplicating the current findings is crucial. While the current study focused on seasonal depression, sleep and circadian rhythm disorders are transdiagnostic. Targeting specific sleep-wake profiles and biological rhythms could help to understand the etiology of mood dysregulation if tested prospectively.”

The study “Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Profiles in Seasonal Depression” was written by Delainey L. Wescott, Meredith L. Wallace, Brant P. Hasler, Alison M. Klevens, Peter L. Franzen, Martica H. Hall, and Kathryn A. Roecklein.

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