Unequivocal results demonstrating a causal relationship between a disturbance in circadian rhythms and depression have not yet been reported (reviews). However, acute mood changes, such as the antidepressive effect of sleep deprivation, diurnal variations of mood and their interrelationship, are commonly put forward as evidence of the importance of circadian dysregulations in affective disorders. The purpose of the present study is to obtain more insight in the mechanisms underlying these mood changes. The results will be discussed in the context of a recently postulated non-chronobiological explanation.
Earlier studies have suggested that the relationship between diurnal variation of mood and the response to total sleep deprivation (TSD) is clear and unambiguous: improvement of mood during the day prior to TSD (a positive diurnal variation) is followed by a positive response (mood improvement) to TSD, while no improvement or deterioration of mood during the day prior to TSD (a negative diurnal variation) may result in no, or even a negative, TSD response (for references see Van den Hoofdakker). However, these conclusions were based on the results from cross-sectional studies, comparing single TSD effects across individuals. Comparison of sleep deprivation effects within individuals, however, revealed that the course of mood during the day prior to TSD is irrelevant for the TSD response. Accordingly, a favourable response to TSD appeared to be related to the patient's propensity to show diurnal mood variations per se, irrespective of their direction.