USING mobile phones after 10pm can trigger depression and loneliness, a study has revealed.
According to The Times, people who spend the night checking social media, watching television or roaming around their homes are more likely to suffer from mood problems such as neuroticism and bipolar disorder.
They are also more likely to rate themselves as unhappy and more lonely, the study in The Lancet Psychiatry says.
While researchers cannot prove that disruption to the body clock causes these problems, they argue that it is more evidence that modern life is scrambling our natural rhythms saying: "Daytime is time for activity and darkness is time for sleep."
Previous studies have linked shift work that disrupts the natural 24-hour cycle of the body to a range of long-term health problems.
But according to the paper, the latest research is the first attempt large-scale measurement of body clock disruption using wearable monitors on 91,000 middle aged people.
The monitors graded the test subjects circadian rhythms on how far they were from a healthy pattern of an active daytime and restful night.
Shockingly, one quarter of people had an abnormal pattern in which they were not much more active during the day than at night.
According to The Times, senior author of the study paper Daniel Smith said: "These were people who have very poor sleep hygiene, people on their mobile phones at midnight checking Facebook or getting up to make a cup of tea in the middle of the night."
The people with abnormal patterns were six per cent more likely to suffer from depression and 11 per cent more likely to have bipolar disorder, and scored their happiness nine per cent lower.
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Professor Smith from the University of Glasgow said it was likely both that mood problems were disrupting sleeping habits and that disrupted nights increased the risk of such disorders.
“Everyone who has ever stepped off a long-haul flight or had children knows that even a couple of nights’ poor sleep can be pretty bad for your mood and thinking ability… I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say this is another piece of evidence that might suggest we should all be more mindful of our natural rhythms of activity and rest.”
A 10pm cut-off would give the average adult time to wind down before switching off the lights, he advised but "it’s not just what you do at night, it’s what you do during the day – trying to be active during the day and inactive in darkness. Especially in the winter, making sure you get out in the morning in the fresh air is just as important in getting a good night’s sleep as not being on your mobile phone,” he said.
While the risks are small for an individual, Professor Smith said: “I think this is important as a population health issue because so many of us are living with disrupted circadian rhythms… It’s unlikely that the way society is currently set up is good for your health. So many people are living in city environments flooded with light 24/7.”
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