Decreased psychological well-being in late 'chronotypes' is mediated by smoking and alcohol consumption.

Research paper by Marc M Wittmann, Martin M Paulus, Till T Roenneberg

Indexed on: 23 Dec '09Published on: 23 Dec '09Published in: Substance use & misuse


Individuals are different 'chronotypes' with early 'larks' and late 'owls' forming the limits of a normal distribution in the population. We recently described that late chronotypes who suffer from a conflict between internal and external time ('social jetlag') suffer from more mental distress and are more likely to smoke than early chronotypes (Wittmann, Dinich, Merrow, and Roenneberg, 2006 . Social jetlag: mis-alignment of biological and social time. Chronobiology International, 23:497-509.). We performed a detailed analysis of the same database collected in 2002 comprising 134 daily smokers and 366 nonsmokers, scrutinizing the relationships between chronotype, smoking, and alcohol consumption as well as psychological well-being using a multiple mediation analysis. On average, smokers tend to be later chronotypes, report more sleep-associated psychosomatic symptoms, are more depressed, less balanced, and less vigilant. The mediation analysis suggests that only those late chronotypes who smoke and those who drink more suffer from increased psychological distress. We suggest that 'chronotype' is introduced as an additional factor in substance use, that is, when considering motives for smoking and drinking.