Irregular sleep–wake cycles and cognitive impairment are frequently observed in schizophrenia, however, how they interact remains unclear.
To investigate the repercussions of circadian rhythm characteristics on cognitive performance and psychopathology in individuals with schizophrenia.
Fourteen middle-aged individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia underwent continuous wrist actimetry monitoring in real-life settings for 3 weeks, and collected saliva samples to determine the onset of endogenous melatonin secretion as a circadian phase marker. Moreover, participants underwent multiple neuropsychological testing and clinical assessments throughout the study period.
Sleep–wake cycles in individuals with schizophrenia ranged from well entrained to highly disturbed rhythms with fragmented sleep epochs, together with delayed melatonin onsets and higher levels of daytime sleepiness. Participants with a normal rest–activity cycle (objectively determined by high relative amplitude of day/night activity) performed significantly better in frontal lobe function tasks. Stepwise regression analysis revealed that relative amplitude and age represented the best predictors for cognitive performance (Stroop colour–word interference task, Trail Making Test A and B, semantic verbal fluency task), whereas psychopathology (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale) did not significantly correlate with either cognitive performance levels or the quality of sleep–wake cycles.
Consolidated circadian rhythms and sleep may be a prerequisite for adequate cognitive functioning in individuals with schizophrenia.