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Chronotype, a Measure to Assess Patterns of Daily Activities

ver 21,000 individuals living in different geographical locations across Germany. Individuals were compared according to the town size in which they lived: The first group included those in areas with a population size of 300,000 or less, while other groups corresponded to individuals living in towns and cities of larger sizes.

The researchers found that within the first group - individuals in more lightly populated regions - chronotypes were tightly coupled to sun time, while within groups corresponding to more densely populated towns and cities, chronotypes showed a progressively weaker coupling to sun time.

City dwelling potentially impacts the influence of sunlight as a zeitgeber because urban dwellers are typically exposed to less natural light than individuals inhabiting less densely populated areas. The authors propose that the gradual uncoupling of the circadian clock of city dwellers from local sun time may reflect the relative strength of natural-light and social cues in influencing activity patterns. When natural-light cues are more abundant - as seems to be the case in more sparsely populated areas - human circadian rhythm entrains to local sun time.

Past work has indicated that as influences on the circadian clock - known as "zeitgebers" -become weaker, chronotypes tend to become later - that is, daily activity is shifted later in the day. And indeed, the present study found that chronotypes became later with increasing population size.

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