Individuals with a history of disrupting their body's natural rhythm - working night shifts, for example, or suffering repeated jetlag - also tended to have a higher lifetime risk of mood disorders, feelings of unhappiness and cognitive problems, the researchers found.
DISRUPTION TO THE body's internal clock is associated with greater susceptibility to mood disorders such as severe depression and bipolar disorder, the largest study of its kind has found.
They were also found to have slower reaction times.
For the latest study, researchers analysed activity data on 91,105 people to measure their daily rest-activity rhythms (also known as relative amplitude).
That's because of the artificial light in cities that can disrupt your sleep cycles.
Daily circadian rhythm is controlled by a collection of neurons in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus.
But Dr. Laura Lyall, study author and research associate at the University of Glasgow, highlights a chicken-and-egg problem since the study was an observational one.
They took account of people's age, the season they wore the activity monitor, their sex, ethnic origin, deprivation score (based on postcode), smoking status, alcohol intake, educational level, overall activity levels, body mass index, and whether they'd experienced childhood trauma.
A lower circadian amplitude denotes less distinction, in terms of activity levels, between active and rest periods of the day.
"But it's not just what you do at night", he said, "it's what you do during the day - trying to be active during the day and inactive in darkness", he told.
The findings are consistent with research indicating a link between sleep disruptions and mood disorders.
So this group may not be the best population in which to study whether disrupted circadian rhythm is a cause of poor mental health.
For the large study, the researchers examined activity data of 91,105 people from the United Kingdom who were aged between 37 to 73 years.
"This is important globally because more and more people are living in urban environments that are known to increase risk of circadian disruption and, by extension, adverse mental health outcomes".
While this may be good general advice for improving sleep, the study didn't tell us whether night-time wakefulness or phone or tablet use was a cause or result of mental health problems.
"So we need to think about ways to help people tune in to their natural rhythms of activity and sleeping more effectively".
The study can not say conclusively that body-clock disturbances are what caused the mental risk, instead of the other way round.
'The next step will be to identify the mechanisms by which genetic and environmental causes of circadian disruption interact to increase an individual's risk of depression and bipolar disorder.
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