While disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle are common in people with affective disorders, the characteristics of these disturbances differ greatly between individuals. This heterogeneity is likely to reflect multiple underlying pathophysiologies, with different perturbations in circadian systems contributing to the variation in sleep-wake cycle disturbances. Such disturbances may be particularly relevant in adolescents and young adults with affective disorders as circadian rhythms undergo considerable change during this key developmental period. This study aimed to identify profiles of sleep-wake disturbance in young people with affective disorders and investigate associations with biological circadian rhythms. Fifty young people with affective disorders and 19 control participants (aged 16–31 years) underwent actigraphy monitoring for approximately two weeks to derive sleep-wake cycle parameters, and completed an in-laboratory assessment including evening dim-light saliva collection for melatonin assay and overnight continuous core body temperature measurement. Cluster analysis based on sleep-wake cycle parameters identified three distinct patient groups, characterised by ‘delayed sleep-wake’, ‘disrupted sleep’, and ‘long sleep’ respectively. The ‘delayed sleep-wake’ group had both delayed melatonin onset and core temperature nadir; whereas the other two cluster groups did not differ from controls on these circadian markers. The three groups did not differ on clinical characteristics. These results provide evidence that only some types of sleep-wake disturbance in young people with affective disorders are associated with fundamental circadian perturbations. Consequently, interventions targeting endogenous circadian rhythms to promote a phase shift may be particularly relevant in youth with affective disorders presenting with delayed sleep-wake cycles.
- core temperature
- affective disorders