How our moods swing from dawn till dusk

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Have you ever noticed how some days you wake up feeling a bit off, even before the day really begins?

Well, researchers from the University of Michigan and Dartmouth Health decided to explore this very question, diving into what’s behind our morning grumps and evening smiles.

They turned to modern technology for answers, using data from Fitbit devices worn by over 2,500 medical interns working long, stressful hours.

What they found gives us a clearer picture of how our feelings change throughout the day and why sleep is so important for our mood.

For two years, these young doctors recorded their daily activities, sleep patterns, and how they felt each day. They hoped to understand better how our body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and our sleep habits influence our emotions.

The study revealed that, generally, people feel their worst around 5 in the morning and their best about 12 hours later, at 5 in the evening.

This pattern showed that our moods swing in a predictable way, likely tied to our body’s natural rhythms. But, there’s a twist: not getting enough sleep makes these mood swings bigger and more intense.

When we’re short on sleep, we tend to feel even worse in the early hours and might not experience the same uplift in the evening.

What’s groundbreaking about this study is its use of wearable technology like Fitbit. This allowed the researchers to gather real-life data on how physical activity, sleep, and heart rate—things our body does naturally—can tell us a lot about how we feel.

Each day, the interns would answer a simple question about their mood, giving the researchers a glimpse into how their emotions changed over time.

The head of the study, Professor Danny Forger, explained that our mood follows a cycle that’s closely linked to our internal clock.

The longer we’re awake, the more our mood can go downhill. This insight helps us understand the crucial role sleep and our body’s natural rhythms play in keeping our emotions balanced.

Benjamin Shapiro, the study’s lead psychiatrist, noted an interesting point: our mood naturally dips in the early morning and climbs in the evening, regardless of how well we slept.

But, if we pull an all-nighter or don’t get enough rest, we’ll likely feel even worse at dawn. This highlights how vital a good night’s sleep is for our mental well-being.

While this study provides valuable insights, the researchers acknowledge that everyone’s mood patterns are unique, influenced by personal experiences, social interactions, and individual traits.

Plus, they mainly focused on medical interns, whose stressful and demanding schedules are not representative of everyone’s daily life.

They also didn’t use detailed emotional assessments that are common in psychological studies, which could have given them even more information about the interns’ feelings.

Despite these limitations, the study opens up new possibilities for understanding and managing our mental health.

Using wearable devices like Fitbits could revolutionize how we monitor and treat mood disorders, making it easier for doctors to spot potential issues and help people maintain a healthy emotional balance.

It’s a step toward a future where taking care of our mental health is as straightforward and accessible as keeping track of our steps or heart rate.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and results showing Omega-3 fats may help reduce depression.

The research findings can be found in PLOS Digital Health.

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