Gene-X-Environment Analysis Supports Protective Effects of Eveningness Chronotype on Self-Reported and Actigraphy-derived Sleep Duration among Regular Night Shift Workers in the UK Biobank.
Akimova ET., Taiji R., Ding X., Mills MC.
Previous research has linked having an eveningness chronotype with a higher tolerance for night shift work, suggesting the ability to work nights without health consequences may partially depend upon having a circadian clock optimized for these times. As chronotypes entrain over time to environmental cues, it remains unclear whether higher relative eveningness amongst healthy night workers reflects a moderating or mediating effect of chronotype on health. We address these concerns conducting a GWAS (genome-wide association study) and utilizing a polygenic score (PGS) for eveningness as a time-invariant measure of chronotype. On a sample of 53,211 workers in the UK Biobank (2006-2018), we focus on the effects of night shift work on sleep duration, a channel through which night shift work adversely affects health. We ask whether a higher predisposition towards eveningness promotes night shift work tolerance. Results indicate that regular night shift work is associated with a 13-minute (3.5%) reduction in self-reported sleep per night relative to those who never work these hours (95% CI = -17:01, -8:36). We find that eveningness has a strong protective effect on night workers: a one-SD increase in the PGS is associated with a 4-minute (28%) reduction in the night shift work sleep penalty per night (CI = 0:10, 7:04). This protective effect is pronounced for those working the longest hours. Consistent patterns are observed with an actigraphy-derived measure of sleep duration. These findings indicate that solutions to health consequences of night shift work should take individual differences in chronotype into account.