Is self-reported morbidity related to the circadian clock?

J Taillard, P Philip, J F Chastang, K Diefenbach, B Bioulac
Journal of Biological Rhythms 2001, 16 (2): 183-90
Morningness and eveningness preference, an endogenous component of the circadian clock, is characterized by an interindividual difference in circadian phase and requires of humans a specific timing of behavior. The biological rhythms of morning and evening types are consequently phase shifted with fixed socioeconomic constraints. The impact of this phase shift on health is widely debated. The purpose of the authors' study was to determine the influence of morningness/eveningness preference on self-reported morbidity and health in an active population. A total of 1165 nonshift workers of the French national electrical and gas company, enrolled in the GAZEL cohort and aged 51.3+/-3.3 years, were included in this study. They replied by mail with a completed questionnaire, including morningness/eveningness preference, self-reported morbidity, subjective sleep patterns, and daytime somnolence and sleeping schedules for 3 weeks, during the spring of 1997. Annual self-reported health impairments were assessed with the annual general questionnaire of the GAZEL cohort for 1997. After adjustment for age, sex, and occupational status, morningness-like and eveningness-like participants reported a specific worse self-reported morbidity. Whereas morningness was associated with worse sleep (p = 0.0001), eveningness was associated with feeling less energetic (p = 0.04) and physical mobility (p = 0.02). These relationships were observed even in good sleepers, except for physical mobility. After adjustment for confounding variables, eveningness-like participants reported more sleep (p = 0.0004) and mood (p = 0.00018) disorders than morningness-like participants. Morningness/eveningness preference was related to specific chronic complaints of insomnia: morningness was related with difficulty in maintaining sleep (p = 0.0005) and the impossibility to return to sleep in the early morning (p = 0.0001) (sleep phase-advance syndrome); eveningness was related to difficulty in initiating sleep (p = 0.0001) and morning sleepiness (p = 0.0001). In good sleepers, morningness was related with sleep phase-advance syndrome (p = 0.0001) and eveningness with morning sleepiness (p = 0.0001). In conclusion, the expression (phase advance or delay) of the circadian clock could be related to worse self-reported morbidity and health. These findings must be verified by further epidemiological studies, but they suggest that the impossibility to return to sleep in the early morning is not only associated with age.

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