Chronotypes in the US - Influence of age and sex

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 21;12(6):e0178782. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178782. eCollection 2017.


An individual's chronotype reflects how the circadian system embeds itself into the 24-h day with rhythms in physiology, cognition and behavior occurring accordingly earlier or later. In view of an increasing number of people working at unusual times and linked health and safety risks, the wide range in human chronotypes may provide opportunities to allow people to work (and sleep) at times that are in synch with their circadian physiology. We aimed at estimating the distribution of chronotypes in the US population by age and sex. Twelve years (2003-2014) of pooled diary data from the American Time Use Survey were used to calculate chronotype based on mid-point of sleep on weekends (MSFWe, n = 53,689). We observed a near-normal distribution overall and within each age group. The distribution's mean value is systematically different with age, shifting later during adolescence, showing a peak in 'lateness' at ~19 years, and shifting earlier thereafter. Men are typically later chronotypes than women before 40, but earlier types after 40. The greatest differences are observed between 15 and 25 for both sexes, equaling more than 50% of the total chronotype difference across all age groups. The variability in chronotype decreases with age, but is generally higher in males than females. This is the first study to estimate the distribution and prevalence of individual chronotypes in the US population based on a large-scale, nationally representative sample. Our finding that adolescents are on average the latest chronotypes supports delaying school start times to benefit their sleep and circadian alignment. The generally wide range in chronotypes may provide opportunities for tailored work schedules by matching external and internal time, potentially decreasing long- and short-term health and safety risks.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.