Chronobiology is not routinely taught to biology or medical students in most European countries. Here we present the results of the chronobiology practicals of a group of students of the University of Padova, with a view to highlight some interesting features of this group, and to share a potentially interesting cross-faculty teaching experience. Thirty-eight students (17 males; 22.9 ± 1.6 yrs) completed a set of self-administered electronic sleep quality [Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)], chronotype and sleepiness [Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS)] questionnaires. They then went on to complete sleep diaries for two weeks. Sixteen also wore an actigraph, 8 wore wireless sensors for skin temperature, and 8 underwent a course of chronotherapy aimed at anticipating their sleep-wake timing. Analyses were performed as practicals, together with the students. Average PSQI score was 5.4 ± 1.9, with 15 (39%) students being poor sleepers. Average ESS score was 6.5 ± 3.3, with 3 (8%) students exhibiting excessive daytime sleepiness. Seven classified themselves as definitely/moderately morning, 25 as intermediates, 6 as moderately/definitely evening. Students went to bed/fell asleep significantly later on weekends, it took them less to fall asleep and they woke up/got up significantly later. Diary-reported sleep onset time coincided with the expected decrease in proximal skin temperature. Finally, during chronotherapy they took significantly less time to fall asleep. In conclusion, significant abnormalities in the sleep-wake patterns of a small group of university students were observed, and the students seemed to benefit from chronotherapy. We had a positive impression of our teaching experience, and the chronobiology courses obtained excellent student feedback.
Keywords: chronobiology; chronotherapy; sleep timing; students; teaching; temperature.
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