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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2000 Mar;21(2):203-16.

Owls, larks and the significance of morningness/eveningness rhythm propensity in psychiatric-mental health nursing.

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  • 1Bristol Myers Squibb Co., Milton, MA 02186, USA.


In the last decade there has been an upsurge in the research focusing on the interplay between the human circadian timing system and behavioral patterns in health and illness. Of particular interest in this area of inquiry is the overlay of what has been termed chronotype. What this refers to is the propensity of biological rhythms to express themselves in certain patterns of behavior. Commonly, these patterns have received names such as owl (evening chronotype) or lark (morning chronotype). Many people are neither a strong morning nor evening chronotype. If illness represents a change in the way a person's body functions within a given environment, then it is reasonable to believe that an "owl's" symptom presentation may vary significantly from the patterns of a "lark" who becomes ill. Recognizing that psychiatric nurses at both the generalist and the advanced practice levels have a strong interest in patterns of behavior, it stands to reason that using a lens that incorporates notions of the body's clock becomes essential. The interplay between the body's timing system and the thousands of other psychobiological rhythmic functions occurring everyday and within every human being is referred to as chronobiology. This article provides a primer for psychiatric nurses on issues of chronobiology related to morningness and eveningness rhythm propensity.

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