Chronotypes! If you’re familiar with CET, then you know that we offer resources and information to help you better understand your chronotype — your circadian rhythm type that is a natural part of you that helps determine your sleep patterns and other behaviors.

Understanding your chronotype is important in helping you better manage your lifestyle in pursuit of improving your mental health. This is especially true for balancing school, work, and home life, where your sleep — or have trouble sleeping — plays a major role in how you function and feel, which can be on a biological level. We have previously showcased these issues in our article on the effects of sleep on shift workers.

In our constant pursuit of the most up-to-date research related to environmental therapeutics, we found a newly published study that explores morningness-eveningness preference and shift in sleep schedule during COVID-19 as predictors of mood and well-being in university students.

The study

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world adopted various measures in efforts to minimize the spread of infection, hospitalizations, and death from the virus — including social distancing, mask-wearing, and stay-at-home orders, among other measures.

On March 17, 2020, the Bangladesh government officially announced a suspension of in-person learning at any educational establishments, which meant a shift to online learning for the over 20 million elementary, high school, and college students across the country.

So, how does major change in schooling relate to chronotype? The unfavorable conditions from the COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique opportunity for a group of researchers to address elements related to better understanding our behavior. They sent out online questionnaires to assess morningness-eveningness preference, shift in chronotype before and during online learning, and mental health well-being.

Over 1,000 students between the ages of 18 and 27 responded to the survey. The study found that around 10% of the participants were morning-types, 10% were evening-types, and 80% were intermediate-types.

The results of the study showed that mental health indicators were directly related to chronotype.

Since students were involved in online learning, they had a little more control over when they could wake up, sleep, and work on school-related activities. The increased power over their schedules proved to be beneficial to the mood and well-being of those who had morning chronotypes, and even more so for those with evening chronotypes.

Participants who had noted having challenges with their mood before the pandemic were mostly among the morning or evening types. Regardless of the direction of extreme chronotype, they experienced:

  • Lower levels or decreased feelings of
    • Anger
    • Confusion
    • Depression
    • Tiredness
    • Tension
  • Greater levels or increased feelings of
    • Energy
    • Well-being

The takeaway

Life is stressful. There are plenty of challenges that can leave you feeling angry, confused, depressed, tired, or tense. Your sleep-wake habits could help reduce these negative elements that impact your mental and physical health, so:

  • Find out your chronotype by taking the AutoMEQ — available online or as a printable PDF document on our site.
  • Adopt a sleep-wake schedule that more closely matches your chronotype.
  • Don’t hesitate speaking to a mental health professional, if you think it could help the changes that benefit your health.

At CET, we love finding ways to help people, but we rely on your feedback and help in return. So please participate and help us to help more people!

Marwan Hamed is a research scientist, public health practitioner, and freelance writer for CET.