Sex of college students moderates associations among bedtime, time in bed, and circadian phase angle

Eliza Van Reen, Katherine M. Sharkey, Brandy M. Roane, David Barker, Ronald Seifer, Tifenn Raffray, Tamara L. Bond, Mary A. Carskadon

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43 Scopus citations


Sex differences in circadian rhythms have been reported with some conflicting results. The timing of sleep and length of time in bed have not been considered, however, in previous such studies. The current study has 3 major aims: (1) replicate previous studies in a large sample of young adults for sex differences in sleep patterns and dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) phase; (2) in a subsample constrained by matching across sex for bedtime and time in bed, confirm sex differences in DLMO and phase angle of DLMO to bedtime; (3) explore sex differences in the influence of sleep timing and length of time in bed on phase angle. A total of 356 first-year Brown University students (207 women) aged 17.7 to 21.4 years (mean = 18.8 years, SD = 0.4 years) were included in these analyses. Wake time was the only sleep variable that showed a sex difference. DLMO phase was earlier in women than men and phase angle wider in women than men. Shorter time in bed was associated with wider phase angle in women and men. In men, however, a 3-way interaction indicated that phase angles were influenced by both bedtime and time in bed; a complex interaction was not found for women. These analyses in a large sample of young adults on self-selected schedules confirm a sex difference in wake time, circadian phase, and the association between circadian phase and reported bedtime. A complex interaction with length of time in bed occurred for men but not women. We propose that these sex differences likely indicate fundamental differences in the biology of the sleep and circadian timing systems as well as in behavioral choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-431
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • circadian phase angle
  • college students
  • melatonin
  • sex differences
  • sleep-wake patterns


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