Shift-specific associations between age, chronotype and sleep duration.Chronobiol Int. 2019 06; 36(6):784-795.CI
The objective of this study was to examine the association of age with chronotype and sleep duration in day workers and rotating shift workers, including night shift work. Between October 2012 and February 2015, a cross-sectional study was conducted in a German chemical company. Using the "Munich ChronoType Questionnaire" (MCTQ), data about sleep onset and sleep offset during workdays and work-free days were retrieved and the chronotype was computed during regular voluntary occupational health check-ups. Associations between age and chronotype, as well as sleep duration, were assessed using linear regression analyses. Potential effect modification by the working time system was examined. Within the study period, 4,040 employees (82.3% and 17.7% were engaged in day work and rotating shift work, respectively) completed the questionnaire. Study participants were on average 41.8 years old (Min = 18.0, Max = 65.0, SD = 10.2) and predominantly male (75.4%). Mean chronotype and overall sleep duration was 03:22 (SD = 54 min) and 7.2 h (SD = 1.0 h) respectively. Older age was associated with earlier chronotype and reduced overall sleep duration in both day workers and rotating shift workers (p < 0.001 for all models). Compared to day workers, employees whom engaged in rotating shift work were later chronotypes and had overall a longer sleep duration. With older age, the difference between day and rotating shift workers regarding chronotype increased, while the difference regarding overall sleep duration decreased (pinteraction<0.005 for both models). This finding could indicate that both changes in circadian physiology and exposure to certain work schedules contribute to the age-related changes. Older rotating shift workers, with early chronotypes may have issues with night shifts, while day work and morning shifts may be best compatible to earlier chronotypes. Differences in sleep timing across age groups, might indicate that the same work hours will affect shift workers differently, dependent on their age, suggesting that more flexible and chronotype-adapted work hours could provide useful; especially for older employees. Sleep education in the form of courses and health campaigns could be a way to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy sleep pattern. This could be achieved by learning strategies to better adjust individual sleep patterns to work hours.