Body Rhythms May be Linked to Certain Mental Illnesses

Your body works on rhythms surrounding things like sleep, wakefulness, and eating patterns, and researchers recently discovered that your ultradian rhythms could be behind some mental illnesses. The ultradian cycle typically lasts only four hours, as opposed to the typical 24 hour circadian rhythm. However, it can stretch out as long as 48 hours when the brain's dopamine levels are out of whack. Problems with dopamine levels are also linked to such mental disorders as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Common Factor is Dopamine

The study by Canadian and French researchers offers clues to a possible relationship between body cycle disruption and symptoms of the disorders. For example, when the four-hour cycle gets extended, it could possibly trigger an extended period of mania in a bipolar person. Further research could also open the door to dopamine-related treatments for mental problems that have an ultradian rhythm link. Certain anti-psychotic drugs, like Risperdal, already work in part by affecting dopamine and are used for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Body rhythm disturbance already has a known link to depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with chronic sleep deprivation face a higher risk of depression. They're also more likely to be obese and more prone to heart disease and diabetes.

Maintain overall health

Until the link is better understood, you can benefit your overall physical and mental health by maintaining a regular schedule for activities like eating and sleep. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommends seven to eight hours of sleep per night for the average adult and more for pregnant women in their first three months of pregnancy. Eating times are an individual choice, as some people break their daily food consumption down into three meals, while others eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. Get yourself onto a regular schedule that's comfortable for you.