New evidence on body clock and depression

Researchers found something relevant to people with depression while working on something else (original article at, tnx Andrew for the link).

In a nutshell, what they found was that people with severe depression had their body clock out of whack: they were essentially living in a different timezone. I don’t think it’s actually news to us, I wrote about this and it being the equivalent of jetlag in the BlueHackers HowTo. But, I do think it’s interesting in the sense that at least in the cases the researchers encountered, for people with severe depression there was a genetic cause. We like to know why things are the way they are, so this new info can help in that respect.

Modern life, in particular with the type of work many of us do, makes it really easy to stuff up your day and night rhythm, and also your eating pattern which is actually related to this as well. Getting your day/night, daylight and food intake patterns right is generally a very important base. Not for everybody, but I think definitely for most of us. And while some of these things might still be hard for some, they’re relatively easy steps compared to others. It’s worth a try and they’re also specifically things you can get external help with – you can get a friend to come by for a walk at a specific time of day, or go get a meal.

Once the new pattern is trained (can take up to three months but often it’s much sooner) you’ll find it much easier to stick to, and also that other tasks become easier.

Mind you, I’m very aware that this is still easier said than done – I have my own company arranged in such a way that it doesn’t create nasty work hours, but I also have a family and thus in the mayhem (or even just because of the weather) I sometimes lose (some of) the pattern for a while. But, I’m now aware of it and that does make a difference already – it’s easier to fix. Typically my food pattern stays ok, but the morning walk loses out (by the way, it may be an afternoon walk that works best for you).

Do you know what’s messed with my morning walk lately? The city council has closed off a footbridge crossing a creek (storm damage), and that was the only way through in that particular direction. I can create other walking loops but they’re less convenient for several reasons – I’ve walked some but it feels less comfortable. I’m generally ok with change but it’s funny how this is just very disruptive!

How do day/night, exercise and food patterns work for you, and how have you tweaked them to work better for you? Please tell, it will help others.

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4 thoughts on “New evidence on body clock and depression”

  1. I am trying to do a short walk every lunchtime now – just to get out of the building (and also get a bit of vitamin D which is important especially during winter months).

    The game Ingress has actually given me a good reason to get out – there are about 4 or 5 portals within a short walk of my building at work – so my life has been slightly gamified here!

    Research says that exercise does not have to be very long to give you benefit.

    On Monday nights I do a longer workout at Krav Maga – this is also a good stress relief and self defence is a really good life skill.

    On sleep – I still go to sleep way too late most days – I know sleep really benefits me but irrationality kicks in to keep me up.

    I do like getting up early and working though, my brain works way better in the first half of the day. Afternoons are not good for me, later in the evening it seems to kick in again.

  2. I cycle to work and try to get a sprint in through the parklands, that along with the morning light and a coffee around 9:30am is my morning anchor. In the evenings I often walk on a treadmill while watching TV/movies/educational stuff – that’s a convenient, weather independent time saver and helps to drain any remaining energy so I’m ready for sleep a few hours later.

    When midnight rolls around if there’s something that has caught my interest I bookmark or save it for later, telling myself its just not worth taking attention/energy from tomorrow’s routine which starts at 7am. Borrowing from tomorrow is cellular usury.

    Still I sit for too long during the day and don’t get enough light in my eyes – something to work towards.

  3. In the morning at work I head into the kitchen 9-10am, fill the kettle right up and boil it for coffee or tea. Making sure I get a good look out the window to the sky towards the hills while it boils. Resetting that daily body clock with enough blue sky and sunlight. This is particularly important during winter.

    Getting out of the office for a walk at lunch time or early afternoon certainly helps keep my day during daylight. Also helps with getting up at 6am for early commutes and getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

    I say to folks at work, “Going out to get a coffee is as much about the walk. The coffee is just the destination”. Some days the walk needs to be longer than others. Instant coffee is a false economy.

  4. Severe depression had their body clock out of whack:

    Becuause of the depression, not because their body clock is worng and this causes the depression.

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