Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVES: Circadian rhythm disruption is commonly reported in patients with bipolar disorder. Lithium has been suggested to have effects on the circadian clock, the biological basis of the circadian rhythm. The objective of the current review was to review systematically the existing studies on the effect of lithium on circadian rhythm in patients with bipolar disorder. METHODS: We systematically searched the scientific literature up to September 2020 for experimental or observational studies which measured circadian rhythm in bipolar patients taking lithium (in comparison with placebo or other active treatments) and carried out a meta-analysis. Circadian rest-activity was our primary outcome, but we also collected data about sleep quality and chronotype (Morningness-Eveningness). The protocol was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42018109790). RESULTS: Four observational studies (n = 668) and one experimental study (n = 29) were included. Results from the meta-analysis suggest a potential association between lithium and shifts towards morningness (standardized mean difference [SMD]: 0.42, 95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.05 to 0.90). One cohort study with 21 days of follow-up found that patients treated with lithium had significantly larger amplitude (0.68, 0.01 to 1.36) when compared to anticonvulsants. CONCLUSION: This review highlights the insufficient evidence to inform us about the effect of lithium on circadian rhythm. However, we found that chronotype can be a potential target for further exploration of biomarkers or biosignatures of lithium treatment in patients with bipolar disorder. Further studies with prospective and longitudinal study design, adopting actigraphy to monitor daily circadian rest-activity changes are needed.

Original publication




Journal article


Bipolar Disord

Publication Date



bipolar disorder, circadian rhythm, lithium