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Impact of seasons on an individual’s chronotype: current perspectives

Authors Shawa N, Rae DE, Roden LC

Received 20 June 2018

Accepted for publication 22 August 2018

Published 31 October 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 345—354


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Steven A Shea

Nyambura Shawa,1 Dale E Rae,2 Laura C Roden1

1Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 2Health through Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Sport Research Centre, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract: Diurnal preference, or chronotype, determined partly by genetics and modified by age, activity, and the environment, defines the time of day at which one feels at his/her best, when one feels sleepy, and when one would prefer to start his/her day. Chronotype affects the phase relationship of an individual’s circadian clock with the environment such that morning types have earlier-phased circadian rhythms than evening types. The phases of circadian rhythms are synchronized to the environment on a daily basis, undergoing minor adjustments of phase each day. Light is the most potent time cue for phase-shifting circadian rhythms, but the timing and amount of solar irradiation vary dynamically with season, especially with increasing distance from the equator. There is evidence that chronotype is modified by seasonal change, most likely due to the changes in the light environment, but interindividual differences in photoperiod responsiveness mean that some people are more affected than others. Differences in circadian light sensitivity due to endogenous biological reasons and/or previous light history are responsible for the natural variation in photoperiod responsiveness. Modern lifestyles that include access to artificial light at night, temperature-controlled environments, and spending much less time outdoors offer a buffer to the environmental changes of the seasons and may contribute to humans becoming less responsive to seasons.

Keywords: diurnal preference, photoperiod, latitude, circadian photoreception

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