Chronobiological theories of mood disorder

  • Nevin F. W. ZakiEmail author
  • David Warren Spence
  • Ahmed S. BaHammam
  • Seithikurippu R. Pandi-Perumal
  • Daniel P. Cardinali
  • Gregory M. Brown
Invited Review


Major depressive disorder (MDD) remains the most prevalent mental disorder and a leading cause of disability, affecting approximately 100 million adults worldwide. The disorder is characterized by a constellation of symptoms affecting mood, anxiety, neurochemical balance, sleep patterns, and circadian and/or seasonal rhythm entrainment. However, the mechanisms underlying the association between chronobiological parameters and depression remain unknown. A PubMed search was conducted to review articles from 1979 to the present, using the following search terms: “chronobiology,” “mood,” “sleep,” and “circadian rhythms.” We aimed to synthesize the literature investigating chronobiological theories of mood disorders. Current treatments primarily include tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are known to increase extracellular concentrations of monoamine neurotransmitters. However, these antidepressants do not treat the sleep disturbances or circadian and/or seasonal rhythm dysfunctions associated with depressive disorders. Several theories associating sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances with depression have been proposed. Current evidence supports the existence of associations between these, but the direction of causality remains elusive. Given the existence of chronobiological disturbances in depression and evidence regarding their treatment in improving depression, a chronobiological approach, including timely use of light and melatonin agonists, could complement the treatment of MDD.


Chronobiology Circadian rhythm Major depressive disorder Mood disorder Light environment Melatonin 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

This manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest related to the current work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of MedicineMansoura UniversityMansouraEgypt
  2. 2.TorontoCanada
  3. 3.University Sleep Disorders CenterCollege of Medicine, King Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  4. 4.Somnogen Canada IncTorontoCanada
  5. 5.BIOMED-UCA-CONICET and Department of Teaching and Research, Faculty of Medical SciencesPontificia Universidad Católica ArgentinaBuenos AiresArgentina
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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