Nonlinear associations between insomnia symptoms and circadian preferences in the general population: Symptom-specific and lifespan differences in men and women

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OBJECTIVES: This study investigated (non)linear associations between different eveningness characteristics (bedtime, wake time, morning affect, and peak performance time) and insomnia symptoms (difficulties initiating sleep, difficulties maintaining sleep, and nonrestorative sleep) in a large general population sample.

METHODS: The data came from digital surveys about insomnia (Minimal Insomnia Scale) and circadian preferences (Children's Chronotype Questionnaire/Composite Scale of Morningness) completed by the Dutch general population (37,389 participants aged 4-91years, 42.4% men) in the Lifelines cohort substudy Comorbid Conditions of ADHD.

RESULTS: Using generalized additive modeling, we found that different characteristics of eveningness related to insomnia either exponentially (later wake time/peak performance time, worse morning affect) or quadratically (early and late bedtime/midpoint of sleep). While difficulties initiating sleep and nonrestorative sleep were strongly associated with all eveningness characteristics, difficulties maintaining sleep related only to earlier bedtimes. These relationships were similar for men and women but varied partly in shapes and strengths across the lifespan. Additional analyses showed that bedtime and wake time were associated with insomnia symptoms only when their combination would result in an unusually long or short preferred time in bed.

CONCLUSION: The association between eveningness and insomnia symptoms highly depends on whether eveningness is reflected by daytime performance or sleep-wake time. The pattern and strength of these associations also vary depending on age and insomnia symptom, but less so on sex. Future sleep-related research and policies relying on circadian preferences should account for the nonlinearity, dimension/symptom-related specificity and age-related differences in the association between eveningness and insomnia symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalSleep health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25-Nov-2023

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