Depression is common in older people and is associated with underlying brain change increasing the risk of dementia. Sleep disturbance is frequently reported by those with lifetime depression, however whether circadian misalignment also exists is unclear. We aimed to examine circadian rhythms and sleep associations in older patients with and without lifetime depression..
..Participants underwent 2-weeks of actigraphy followed by a 3-night protocol including dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) assessment and overnight polysomnography (PSG) for sleep architecture. DLMO and phase angle of entrainment were computed.
Compared to controls, participants with depression had a significantly longer phase angle of entrainment (6.82 h ± 1.45 vs. 5.87 h ± 1.60, p = 0.02, Cohens-d = 0.62). A small to moderate yet non-significant difference in DLMO times, with earlier DLMO (34 ± 27 min) observed in depression (20:36 ± 1:48 vs. 21:10 ± 1:48, p = 0.22, Cohens-d = 0.32). Individuals with depression had longer sleep latency and latency to rapid eye movement sleep than controls (all p < 0.05).
Circadian advancement and alterations to the timing of sleep and REM onset are evident in older people with lifetime major depression, despite having only mild residual symptoms. Further research examining the prognostic significance of these changes is warranted as well as chronotherapeutic treatment studies.