J Biol Rhythms 2013 Apr;28(2):141-51
Institute of Medical Psychology, Centre of Chronobiology, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Munich, Germany.
This study explores chronotype-dependent tolerance to the demands of working morning, evening, and night shifts in terms of social jet lag, sleep duration, and sleep disturbance. A total of 238 shift-workers were chronotyped with the Munich ChronoType Questionnaire for shift-workers (MCTQ(Shift)), which collects information about shift-dependent sleep duration and sleep timing. Additionally, 94 shift-workers also completed those items of the Sleep Questionnaire from the Standard Shift-Work Index (SSI) that assess sleep disturbances. Although all participants worked morning, evening, and night shifts, subsamples differed in rotation direction and speed. Sleep duration, social jet lag, and sleep disturbance were all significantly modulated by the interaction of chronotype and shift (mixed-model ANOVAs). Earlier chronotypes showed shortened sleep duration during night shifts, high social jet lag, as well as higher levels of sleep disturbance. A similar pattern was observed for later chronotypes during early shifts. Age itself only influenced sleep duration and quality per se, without showing interactions with shifts. We found that workers slept longer in fast, rotating shift schedules. Since chronotype changes with age, investigations on sleep behavior and circadian misalignment in shift-workers have to consider chronotype to fully understand interindividual and intraindividual variability, especially in view of the current demographic changes. Given the impact of sleep on health, our results stress the importance of chronotype both in understanding the effects of shift-work on sleep and in devising solutions to reduce shift-work-related health problems.