Sex Differences in the Relationship Between Depressive Symptoms and Actigraphic Assessments of Sleep and Rest-Activity Rhythms in a Population-Based Sample

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Depression is often associated with disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms. We aimed to confirm these relationships via actigraphic assessment in a large, population-based sample and test whether sex moderates these relationships.


A total of 418 participants (age = 35–85 years, mean [standard deviation] = 57.04 [11.47]) completed questionnaires and 1 week of actigraphy, used to calculate sleep and rest-activity statistics including mesor (mean activity level), amplitude (height of rhythm), and acrophase (time of day that rhythm peaks).


Depressive symptoms, assessed via Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, were associated with disrupted sleep and rest-activity rhythms. Furthermore, men demonstrated longer sleep onset latency (SOL, B = −13.28, p < .001), longer wake time after sleep onset (B = −6.26, p < .01), lower sleep efficiency (B = 5.91, p < .001), and lower total sleep time (TST, B = 33.16, p < .001) than women. Sex moderated the relationship between depression and SOL, TST, mesor, and amplitude; sex-stratified models revealed that higher depression scores were associated with greater SOL (B = 1.05, p < .001) and less TST (B = −0.87, p < .10) for women with higher depressive symptoms, but lower mesor (B = −1.75, p < .01) and amplitude (B = −1.94, p < .01) for men with higher depressive symptoms.


Depressive symptoms were related to disrupted sleep continuity and rest-activity rhythms in this population-based sample; however, these relationships differed by sex. Women with greater depressive symptoms exhibited difficulty with sleep continuity, whereas men with greater depressive symptoms demonstrated disruption throughout the 24-hour rhythm.

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