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PSYC 388 Chronotype and Sleep Tracking Project: Psychology Answers 2021
PSYC 388 Chronotype and Sleep Tracking Project
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Psyc 388-21-summer Chronotype and Sleep Tracking Project
Part 1. Description of the Project
Part 2. Collecting data
Part 3. Analysing your data
3a. calculating sleep variables and creating summary tables
3b. tabulating your MCTQ and MEQ scores
3c. graphing your data
Part 4. Writing your report
Due date: Day of last scheduled class for this course.
Part 1. Description of the Project
An important learning objective in this course is to understand the concept of ‘chronotype’, how
it is measured and why it is relevant to human performance, health and welfare. The Chronotype
and Sleep Tracking Project will provide experience measuring chronotype, analysing and
graphing chronotype data, and writing a report. The assignment will also require you to think
about how chronotype impacts your sleep, and why principles of circadian entrainment, which
explain chronotype, should inform public policy on issues such as school start times and Daylight
Chronotype refers to the timing of your circadian clock relative to local environmental time. You
are no doubt familiar with the expressions ‘early bird’ and ‘night owl’ that we use to describe
people who prefer to wake up particularly early or late, respectively. These expressions describe
trait-like individual differences in chronotype, resulting from individual differences in
characteristics of the circadian clock (e.g., its periodicity and sensitivity to light) interacting with
daily patterns of exposure to light, and possibly other periodic stimuli (e.g., mealtimes). As
discussed in detail in Modules 4-7 (on entrainment), the timing of circadian rhythms, including
the sleep-wake cycle, in natural environments is determined by a process of entrainment, which
can be formally defined as ‘phase and period control of one oscillating process (e.g., a circadian
clock) by a periodic stimulus (e.g., the daily rising and setting of the sun)’. Entrainment is the
mechanism by which your circadian clock synchronizes to the 24h day. Chronotype describes
your ‘phase of entrainment’ to the outside world. In Module 7.2, you will learn more about
chronotypes and the related concept of ‘social jetlag’, which describes a mismatch between your
chronotype (biological time) and your social schedule (social time), and which has consequences
for health, performance and general well-being.
Your assignment is to conduct a self-study of your own circadian sleep-wake rhythms and
determine how your chronotype and lifestyle (including school and work) impacts your ability to
obtain, on a regular basis, an amount of sleep that you need to feel rested and able to function
well across a typical day.
The project has three specific objectives. The first objective is to construct a quantitative profile
of your chronotype and sleep-wake cycle. This will be accomplished using three tools:
questionnaires, a sleep diary, and a wearable or remote sleep tracker.
The second objective is to compare the results of the three tools. Questionnaires typically ask for
either your preferred or your actual sleep and wake times. Preferences may not capture your
actual sleep-wake times, and estimates, from memory, of your actual sleep and wake times can be
surprisingly inaccurate. Sleep diaries should provide more accurate data, assuming compliance
with instructions to fill in sleep and wake times each day. Automated sleep tracking devices, in
principle, should provide the most objective and accurate data, because they do not rely on
human memory or compliance (beyond the requirement to use the device). These devices, in
practise, may not be very accurate.
There are currently two types of automated sleep trackers, those that you wear (typically on the
wrist like a watch), and those that you place beside or on your bed. Wearable devices rely
primarily on accelerometers, which detect movement and estimate whether you are asleep or
awake using mathematical formulas. Some of these devices also measure heart rate, skin
temperature or other physiological variables to increase sensitivity (how much real sleep is
detected) and specificity (how much real wake is mistakenly scored as sleep). Most commercially
available wearable sleep trackers were originally designed for tracking exercise and have been
adapted to provide information on sleep. There are a great many on the market; a popular
example is the Fitbit. Many so-called smart watches, like the Apple Watch, also provide sleep
tracking capability. Bedside sleep trackers have also been developed, using motion sensors or
microphones to detect bed movements or sounds from which sleep and wake states are
discriminated. Some of these remote sleep trackers are available as apps for cell phones.
Despite claims, most wearable and bedside sleep trackers have not yet been shown by
independent investigators to accurately distinguish sleep from wake. Only a few of the claims are
supported by published studies in which the sleep tracker was compared with EEG recordings
(polysomnography), with another tracker that has been validated against polysomnography, or
with a sleep diary.
Your assignment will be to acquire a sleep tracker and compare its results with your
questionnaire and sleep diary data and make an assessment of how well the sleep tracker
performs relative to the claims of document sellers. Some of you may already have a wearable device that
can track sleep (e.g., an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or other fitness watch). I will provide a list of some
options, if you wish to buy one (at a cost less than the average textbook). If you prefer not to buy
a device, you can use a cell phone app. I will suggest a few. If you have neither a wearable device,
nor a cell phone, let me know and we can arrange something else.
The third objective of the project is to think about the personal and social consequences of
chronotype, with a special emphasis on sleep. How does chronotype affect your sleep, throughout
the week, and across the school year? Are you able to obtain enough sleep to meet your needs
(i.e., to be alert and functioning well throughout the day), or do you experience some degree of
‘social jetlag’ (not enough sleep on some days, and sleeping late to compensate on others)? If
there are nights when you do not get enough sleep, what are the factors that might account for
this, e.g., chronotype, lifestyle (including school and/or work hours, natural light exposure, or
other factors), stress, etc. Thinking more broadly, what would be the impact on your sleep if the
province of BC switches to permanent Daylight Saving Time (DST), and eliminates the twice
yearly switch from Standard Time to DST in the spring, and back to Standard Time in the fall?
What might be the impact (good, bad or indifferent) of permanent DST on society at large, e.g., for
children and teenagers attending public school, for adults commuting to work, for seniors. How
would a switch to permanent DST interact with school start times to potentially affect students
ability to get sufficient sleep? We will discuss DST and related issues, such as school start times,
further in Module 7.2 (on chronotype) and again later in the course.
Instructions Part 2. Collecting data
1. Three questionnaires, available on Canvas.
a. The Morning Evening (Horne-Ostborg) Questionnaire (MEQ)
b. The Munich Chronotyping Questionnaire (MCTQ)
c. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Questionnaire (PSQ)
2. Structured sleep diary. You can begin to keep the diary now. You will want to collect at least
14 days of sleep-wake data. The 14 days should include 14 days of data collected by a sleep
tracking device, so that you can compare the diary data with the sleep tracker data.
3. Sleep tracking device. Wearable sleep trackers (e.g., Fitbits) typically require a cell phone,
and an app provided with the device. The app may also work on a notebook or computer
(some accommodate any platform, but they all require an app for you to retrieve the data).
Bedside sleep trackers also require a cell phone app. Some of the apps are free, and some can
be upgraded for a small fee to a ‘premium’ version.
Wearable sleep trackers
If you don’t own one already, listed here are just a few of the better known models. Fitbits are
probably the best value, as they are among the least costly, and best validated.
1. Fitbit – Recent studies show good performance of Fitbits in measuring sleep onset, wake-up
and sleep duration, compared to polysomnography (EEG studies). There are a range of
models, starting at ~$100
2. Garmin – Vivosmart4
3. Apple Watch
4. Oura ring – https://ouraring.com/why-oura a fashionable ring that you wear on your finger.
Recent studies have validated the device for tracking sleep.
Bedside (smartphone) sleep apps (free versions plus upgrades)
These work using the microphone on a cell phone to . There are others, but here are two
SleepScore – https://www.sleepscore.com
Sleep Cycle – https://www.sleepcycle.com
PSYC388-21-summer – Sleep diary instructions
An important objective of the project is for you to compare the results of your sleep diary
with your sleep tracking device. Therefore, you should be keeping two records – one is the
sleep diary, which contains your daily entries of wake up and bedtime, and the other is the
data produced by your sleep tracker. You can enter the sleep tracker data into a second
sleep diary – I didn’t set up a second diary for you, as different trackers provide different
information, but make sure that you do transcribe from your sleep tracker at least the
following information, each day: sleep onset time, wake onset time, sleep duration. The
tracker may also provide information on things like sleep efficiency, different sleep stages,
some kind of sleep quality score, etc., and you can create additional columns for one or
more of these if you wish. Note that the sleep tracker may produce some results that are
clearly wrong. Do not correct them. Enter whatever the sleep tracker says. You will be
analysing the correspondence between your sleep diary, and your sleep tracker.
Data entry format
You will be entering data on time of day (bedtime, wakeup, naps, etc) and on duration
(sleep duration). To calculate averages and graph data, it is easier if the clocktimes and
hours are entered in a standard numerical format. Enter all clock times in the ‘military’
style and enter minutes as fractions of an hour. For example,
• noon = 12.00
• midnight = 0.00
• 1:30 pm = 13.50 [1pm is hour 13 of 24, and 30 minutes is a half hour, thus 0.50]
• 11:50 pm = 23.83 [11pm is 23.0 and 50 minutes = 50/60 = 0.83]
• 1:15 am = 1.25 [15 minutes is a quarter hour, thus .25]
Data to enter at the end of the day:
1. Natural light exposure: Light controls the timing of our circadian clocks, and bright
outdoor light is much more powerful than indoor light. At the end of each day, enter
into the diary the clocktime when you first went outside, and estimate how much time
you spent outside. If you didn’t go outside, then leave the cells empty.
2. Naps : The time that you started the nap, and the duration of the nap
3. Time of first and last food intake: Any food intake counts, including a late night snack.
Data to enter in the morning:
1. Time that you got into bed [‘bedtime’]
2. Time that you turned off lights, social media, etc., with the intention of falling asleep.
3. How long it took to fall asleep. This might be immediate, or 5 minutes, or 20 minutes. It
is interesting to compare this with the sleep tracker estimate of sleep onset time. This is
also called ‘sleep latency’ [SL].
4. The time of sleep onset [‘sleep onset time’]
5. Amount of time awake during the night, if you remember being awake. This is also
called ‘wake after sleep onset’, or WASO. Sleep trackers usually also report this.
6. Time that you woke up and did not go back to sleep, even if you stayed in bed.
7. Whether you used an alarm clock or not.
8. Hours between lights off and final wakeup. This is also called ‘time in bed’, or TIB.
9. The number of hours that you were asleep [this is time the time between sleep onset
and wakeup, minus any time awake; the formula is therefore TIB-SL-WASO].
10. Midsleep time – this is the midpoint between sleep onset and wakeup.
11. Type of day – either you have to go to work soon after waking up, or you are free of
obligations early in the day, and therefore were able to choose your preferred wakeup
You can begin your sleep diary before getting a sleep tracker, but make sure that you have
at least 2 weeks of data when you are keeping the diary and using the tracker.
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