Meal timing may affect mental health, including levels of depression- and anxiety-related mood.
A new study simulated night work and then tested the effects of daytime and nighttime eating versus daytime eating only.
Depression- and anxiety-like mood levels increased by 26% and 16%, respectively, among the daytime and nighttime eaters, but there was no such increase in daytime-only eaters, suggesting that meal timing may influence mood vulnerability.
Shift workers often experience a misalignment between the central circadian clock and daily environmental/behavioral cycles, and circadian misalignment can negatively affect mood and emotional well-being, in nonshift workers and shift workers.
“Our findings provide evidence for the timing of food intake as a novel strategy to potentially minimize mood vulnerability in individuals experiencing circadian misalignment, such as people engaged in shift work, experiencing jet lag, or suffering from circadian rhythm disorders,” said co-corresponding author Frank A. J. L. Scheer, PhD, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in the Brigham’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.
“Shift workers — as well as individuals experiencing circadian disruption, including jet lag — may benefit from our meal timing intervention,” said co-corresponding author Sarah L. Chellappa, MD, PhD, who completed work on this project while at the Brigham.
Chellappa is now in the Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Cologne, Germany.
“Our findings open the door for a novel sleep/circadian behavioral strategy that might also benefit individuals experiencing mental health disorders.
Our study adds to a growing body of evidence finding that strategies that optimize sleep and circadian rhythms may help promote mental health.”
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For more information
Daytime eating prevents mood vulnerability in night work
Jingyi Qian, Nina Vujovic, Hoa Nguyen, Sarah L. Chellappa
Division of Sleep Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
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