Mental health in young adults may be linked to sleep chronotype

1. Young adults with evening chronotypes recorded higher depression and anxiety scores, and poorer sleep quality in comparison to morning and intermediate chronotypes.

2. Positive psychological traits, such as mindfulness and positive social interactions, were more frequently reported by individuals with morning chronotypes.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Circadian rhythm preferences, also known as chronotypes, impact physical and mental performance. Previous studies have found an association between chronotype and psychological traits, sleep disturbances, and social support. In general, evening chronotypes disclose more negative psychological traits and are more prevalent in young adults, whereas morning and intermediate chronotypes report better social support and more mindfulness.

In this study, 3160 young adults attending Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada, completed an online questionnaire related to demographics and sleep chronotype. Inclusion criteria were limited to attending university students aged 18-35 years. The questionnaire incorporated existing scales and survey instruments (ex. Morningness-Eveningness questionnaire and the Pittsburg Sleep Quality index) to assess for sleep chronotype, symptoms of anxiety and depression, mindfulness, sleep quality, and social support. The main objective of the study was to determine the relationship between sleep chronotype, sleep quality, and psychological factors. Furthermore, the study explored the relationship between sleep chronotype and social support level.

The results of this study demonstrated that there was an association between age and chronotypes: evening chronotypes were often younger adults, and morning types were older adults. Furthermore, compared to other chronotypes, students with evening chronotypes showed higher levels of depression, anxiety, and worsened sleep quality. In contrast, students with morning chronotypes were more likely to report greater levels of mindfulness and social support. The results of this study should be taken into consideration while acknowledging some of its limitations. For instance, data was self-reported via questionnaire, and female and Caucasian students were overrepresented in the sample. Nonetheless, this study underlined the possible issues experienced by young adults with evening sleep chronotypes, which should be considered in clinical practice.

Click to read the study in Journal of Sleep Research

Image: PD

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