Home Mental Health & Well-Being Study Reveals Influence of Chronotype on Diurnal Anxiety and Activity Patterns

Study Reveals Influence of Chronotype on Diurnal Anxiety and Activity Patterns

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A recent study has uncovered significant variations in anxiety symptoms and daily activities among individuals based on their chronotype, the natural inclination toward morning or evening activity. The research suggests that evening chronotypes, or “night owls”, exhibit higher anxiety levels, particularly in the evening, compared to morning chronotypes. The findings were published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

The study examined 410 adults, assessing their anxiety symptoms and daily activities in relation to their chronotype and the presence of probable anxiety-related disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Participants were categorised as either morning or evening chronotypes using self-report measures. Anxiety symptoms and activity levels were tracked throughout the day to identify diurnal patterns.

One of the most significant findings was that evening chronotypes reported higher levels of anxiety in the evening hours. This was especially pronounced among individuals with probable GAD or OCD. While it might be expected that night owls would feel their best in the evening, the study found the opposite: evening chronotypes experienced worse anxiety symptoms during their preferred time of day.

Evening hours may therefore be a risk window for anxiety symptoms in evening chronotypes, highlighting the need for targeted intervention strategies that consider the time of day when anxiety symptoms peak​​.

The study also explored how daily activities fluctuated between morning and evening chronotypes. Evening types were generally less physically active, spent less time outdoors, and engaged less in social interactions compared to their morning counterparts. These patterns were consistent regardless of the presence of probable GAD or OCD​​.

Interestingly, the time of peak activity differed between the groups. Morning chronotypes were most active and spent the most time outdoors around midday to early afternoon, while evening chronotypes peaked later in the day. But both chronotypes showed a decline in physical and social activities in the evening, with evening chronotypes showing particularly low levels of engagement during this period​​.

These findings suggest that personalised treatment approaches for anxiety disorders might benefit from considering an individual’s chronotype. For evening chronotypes, interventions scheduled for the evening could help manage the heightened anxiety levels experienced during this time. “Our results indicate that personalised treatment approaches considering chronotype and targeting certain times of day may be more efficient in alleviating peaks in anxiety symptoms,” the study authors suggested​​.

The study contributes to a growing body of research on the relationship between chronotype and mental health. Previous research has linked evening chronotypes to higher risks of depression and other mood disorders, potentially due to circadian misalignment and the resulting sleep deprivation. This new study extends these findings to anxiety disorders, emphasising the importance of circadian rhythms in mental health​​.

While the study provides valuable insights, the authors acknowledge several limitations. The data were collected during a single day, and future research should incorporate multiple days to assess the stability of these patterns. Additionally, the reliance on self-report measures may introduce bias, and future studies could benefit from incorporating objective measures of chronotype and anxiety symptoms. The study was also conducted during the Covid pandemic, which may have influenced social behaviours and anxiety levels, suggesting a need for replication post-pandemic​​.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd