The brain's hard-wired circadian time-keeper governs day-night cycles, influencing sleep patterns, the release of hormones and even body temperature.
For the latest study, researchers analysed activity data on 91,105 people to measure their daily rest-activity rhythms (also known as relative amplitude).
Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom noted that a regular sleep-wake cycle is "crucial" for mental health and well-being, as they associate certain forms of disruption with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
While the study does not reveal whether disruptions to circadian rhythms are a cause of mental health problems, a result of them or some mixture of the two, the authors say the findings highlight the importance of how we balance rest and activity.
For the new study, an global team led by Laura Lyall, a University of Glasgow psychologist, analysed data - taken from the UK Biobank, one of the most complete long-term health surveys ever done - on 91,105 people aged 37 to 73.
WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) - Circadian disruption and lower relative amplitude are both associated with higher risk of susceptibility to mental health issues, according to a study published online May 15 in The Lancet Psychiatry.
The team then looked at how active individuals were on average during their most active 10 hours each day compared to their least active five hours to calculate a figure known as the relative amplitude.
Previous studies have identified associations between disrupted circadian rhythms and poor mental health, but these were on relatively small samples.
"While our findings can't tell us about the direction of causality, they reinforce the idea that mood disorders are associated with disturbed circadian rhythms, and we provide evidence that altered rest-activity rhythms are also linked to worse subjective wellbeing and cognitive ability", said Dr Lyall.
The researchers found that lower relative amplitude was associated with a greater odds of reporting lifetime history of major depression or bipolar disorder.
However he added that what people do during the day is also important, saying they should try to remain active during daylight hours and inactive at night.
People who fail to follow their natural body clock rhythm are more likely to have depression and mental health problems, a study has found.
There was an increase of 6 percent and 11 percent in risk of depression and bipolar disorder respectively with lowering of relative amplitudes.