Psychopathy and depression are significant predictors of chronotype disposition, according to study results published in Heliyon.

A study examined the relationship between dark triad personality traits and chronotype disposition. Researchers also looked at the mediating role of anxiety and/or depression. The dark triad consists of 3 personality traits: Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism. Chronotype disposition, or circadian preference, refers to an individual’s preferred sleep and waking behavior. Morning-types report waking earlier in the morning, being more productive during the morning hours, and going to sleep earlier at night. Evening-types report difficulties waking early, being more productive during the late afternoon and evening hours, and going to sleep later at night.

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Members of the general population and students from several universities in the northern United Kingdom responded to advertisements on social media and research participation forums. Participants (n=453; mean age, 23.96±11.08; 75% women; 69% students) completed a survey that consisted of the Short Dark Triad and Morningness-Eveningness questionnaires, as well as the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and tools that determined exclusionary sleep/wake disorder symptoms.

Mean scores were: Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, 41.43±8.36; Machiavellianism, 2.78±0.71; narcissism, 2.51±0.57; psychopathy, 2.09±0.60; anxiety 7.38±4.08; and depression 3.88±2.97. A morning chronotype preference was negatively related to psychopathy (r = −.18; P =.001) and Machiavellianism (r = −13; P =.006) but not narcissism (r = .01; P =.85). Chronotype was also negatively related to anxiety (r = −14; P =.004) and depression (r = −19, P =.001). After controlling for age and sex, psychopathy significantly predicted chronotype disposition (14% total variance explained), while Machiavellianism did not. Finally, after adding anxiety and depression, psychopathy and depression remained the only significant predictors of chronotype (15% total variance explained).


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The majority of the respondents were younger and women, which may have affected the findings and limit generalizability, especially in older men.

While both psychopathy and Machiavellianism were independently related to an evening chronotype disposition, only psychopathy and depression were significant predictors of chronotype. “Individuals presenting an evening disposition may display increased psychopathic traits due to greater emotion dysregulation. This is potentially perpetuated by depressive symptoms stemming from a delayed or blunted affective rhythm. Interacting factors (eg, reduced light exposure) may also contribute to alterations in the biological rhythm amongst evening-types, resulting in a negative feedback cycle,” the researchers wrote.

“Targeting chronotype and depressive symptoms amongst individuals presenting psychopathic tendencies could increase the efficacy of existing sleep-based interventions for hostile behavior,” they concluded.

Reference

Akram U, Stevenson JC, Gardani M, Akram A, Allen S. Psychopathy and chronotype disposition: the mediating role of depression. Heliyon. 2019;5(11):e02894.