Extracting Circadian and Sleep Parameters from Longitudinal Data in Schizophrenia for the Design of Pragmatic Light Interventions

Anne C Skeldon, Derk-Jan Dijk, Nicholas Meyer, Katharina Wulff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Sleep and circadian rhythm dysfunction is prevalent in schizophrenia, is associated with distress and poorer clinical status, yet remains an under-recognized therapeutic target. The development of new therapies requires the identification of the primary drivers of these abnormalities. Understanding of the regulation of sleep-wake timing is now sufficiently advanced for mathematical model-based analyses to identify the relative contribution of endogenous circadian processes, behavioral or environmental influences on sleep-wake disturbance and guide the development of personalized treatments. Here, we have elucidated factors underlying disturbed sleep-wake timing by applying a predictive mathematical model for the interaction of light and the circadian and homeostatic regulation of sleep to actigraphy, light, and melatonin profiles from 20 schizophrenia patients and 21 age-matched healthy unemployed controls, and designed interventions which restored sleep-circadian function. Compared to controls, those with schizophrenia slept longer, had more variable sleep timing, and received significantly fewer hours of bright light (light > 500 lux), which was associated with greater variance in sleep timing. Combining the model with the objective data revealed that non 24-h sleep could be best explained by reduced light exposure rather than differences in intrinsic circadian period. Modeling implied that late sleep offset and non 24-h sleep timing in schizophrenia can be normalized by changes in environmental light-dark profiles, without imposing major lifestyle changes. Aberrant timing and intensity of light exposure patterns are likely causal factors in sleep timing disturbances in schizophrenia. Implementing our new model-data framework in clinical practice could deliver personalized and acceptable light-dark interventions that normalize sleep-wake timing.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Nov 2021


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