Influence of chronotype, season, and sex of subject on sleep behavior of young adults.

Research paper by Hanna H Lehnkering, Renate R Siegmund

Indexed on: 13 Nov '07Published on: 13 Nov '07Published in: Chronobiology international


The aim of this study was to investigate whether sex, season, and/or chronotype influence the sleep behavior of university students. Detailed data were collected on activity/rest patterns by wrist actigraphy combined with diaries. Thirty-four medical students (19 female and 15 male) were monitored by Actiwatch actometers for 15 consecutive days in May and again in November. The data of a modified Horne and Ostberg chronotype questionnaire, which were collected from 1573 female and 1124 male medical school students surveyed in the spring and autumn over an eight-year period, were evaluated. Actiwatch sleep analysis software was used to process the activity data with statistical analyses performed with ANOVA. We found no significant sex-specific differences in sleep efficiency, sleep onset latency, or actual sleep-time duration. However, we did find a difference in sleep efficiency between morning and evening types, with morning types having a higher sleep efficiency (87.9%, SD=1.3) than evening types (84.3%, SD=0.87%; p=0.007). Seasonal differences were also detected: the actual sleep-time duration in autumn was significantly longer (mean 6.9 h, SD=0.13 h) than in spring (6.6 h, SD=0.1 h; p=0.013). Evaluation of the chronotype questionnaire data showed that individuals with no special preference for morningness or eveningness (i.e., so-called intermediates) were most common. The distribution of chronotypes was related to the sex of subject. Men displayed eveningness significantly more often than women (28.9% males vs. 20.8% females; p<0.001), while females exhibited greater morningness (20.3% females vs.15.6% males; p<0.001). Sex influences chronotype distribution, but not actual sleep time-duration, sleep onset latency, or sleep efficiency. The latter, however, differed among chronotypes, while actual sleep-time duration was affected by season.