Several studies have shown the differences among chronotypes in the circadian rhythm of different physiological variables. Individuals show variation in their preference for the daily timing of activity; additionally, there is an association between chronotype and sleep duration/sleep complaints. Few studies have investigated sleep quality during the week days and weekends in relation to the circadian typology using self-assessment questionnaires or actigraphy. The purpose of this study was to use actigraphy to assess the relationship between the three chronotypes and the circadian rhythm of activity levels and to determine whether sleep parameters respond differently with respect to time (weekdays versus the weekend) in Morning-types (M-types), Neither-types (N-types) and Evening-types (E-types). The morningness-eveningness questionnaire (MEQ) was administered to 502 college students to determine their chronotypes. Fifty subjects (16 M-types, 15 N-types and 19 E-types) were recruited to undergo a 7-days monitoring period with an actigraph (Actiwacth® actometers, CNT, Cambridge, UK) to evaluate their sleep parameters and the circadian rhythm of their activity levels. To compare the amplitude and the acrophase among the three chronotypes, we used a one-way ANOVA followed by the Tukey-Kramer post-hoc test. To compare the Midline Estimating Statistic of Rhythm (MESOR) among the three chronotypes, we used a Kruskal-Wallis non-parametric test followed by pairwise comparisons that were performed using Dunn's procedure with a Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. The analysis of each sleep parameter was conducted using the mixed ANOVA procedure. The results showed that the chronotype was influenced by sex (χ(2) with p = 0.011) and the photoperiod at birth (χ(2) with p < 0.05). Though the MESOR and amplitude of the activity levels were not different among the three chronotypes, the acrophases compared by the ANOVA post-hoc test were significantly different (p < 0.001). The ANOVA post-hoc test revealed the presence of a significant difference (p < 0.001) between the M-types (14:32 h) and E-types (16:53 h). There was also a significant interaction between the chronotype and four sleep parameters: Sleep end, Assumed Sleep, Immobility Time and Sleep Efficiency. Sleep Efficiency showed the same patterns as did Assumed Sleep and Immobility Time: the Sleep Efficiency of the E-types was poorer than that of the M- and N-types during weekdays (77.9% ± 7.0 versus 84.1% ± 4.9 and 84.1% ± 5.2) but was similar to that measured in the M- and N-types during the weekend. Sleep Latency and Movement and Fragmentation Index were not different among the three chronotypes and did not change on the weekend compared with weekdays. This study highlights two key findings: first, we observed that the circadian rhythm of activity levels was influenced by the chronotype; second, the chronotype had a significant effect on sleep parameters: the E-types had a reduced sleep quality and quantity compared with the M- and N-types during weekdays, whereas the E-types reached the same levels as the other chronotypes during the weekends. These findings suggest that E-types accumulate a sleep deficit during weekdays due to social and academic commitments and that they recover from this deficit during "free days" on the weekend.
Keywords: Activity; actigraphy; chronotype; circadian rhythm; morningness–eveningness; sleep.