Individuals vary in how their circadian system synchronizes with the cyclic environment (zeitgeber). Assessing these differences in "phase of entrainment"-often referred to as chronotype-is an important procedure in laboratory experiments and epidemiological studies but is also increasingly applied in circadian medicine, both in diagnosis and therapy. While biochemical measurements (e.g., dim-light melatonin onset [DLMO]) of internal time are still the gold standard, they are laborious, expensive, and mostly rely on special conditions (e.g., dim light). Chronotype estimation in the form of questionnaires is useful in approximating the timing of an individual's circadian clock. They are simple, inexpensive, and location independent (e.g., administrable on- and offline) and can therefore be easily administered to many individuals. The Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ) is an established instrument to assess chronotype by asking subjects about their sleep-wake-behavior. Here we present a shortened version of the MCTQ, the µMCTQ, for use in situations in which instrument length is critical, such as in large cohort studies. The µMCTQ contains only the core chronotype module of the standard MCTQ (stdMCTQ), which was shortened and adapted from 17 to 6 essential questions, allowing for a quick assessment of chronotype and other related parameters such as social jetlag and sleep duration. µMCTQ results correspond well to the ones collected by the stdMCTQ and are externally validated by actimetry and DLMO, assessed at home (no measure of compliance). Sleep onset, midpoint of sleep, and the µMCTQ-derived marker of chronotype showed slight deviations toward earlier times in the µMCTQ when compared with the stdMCTQ (<35 min). The µMCTQ assessment of chronotype showed good test-retest reliability and correlated significantly with phase markers from actimetry and melatonin (DLMO), especially with measurements taken on work-free days. Because of its brevity, the µMCTQ represents an ideal tool to estimate individual internal time in time-critical contexts, from large cohort studies to individualized medicine.
Keywords: DLMO; actigraphy; chronotype; circadian; phase of entrainment; validation.