We all know at least one person who seems to leap out of bed with all the energy in the world, well before the sun even rises. Then, you know someone else who can’t close their eyes before midnight no matter how much Yoga Nidra and deep breathing exercises they do. Maybe one of these two extremes actually describes you! You’re doing what feels natural to you, yet other people say it doesn’t come so easily to them. What’s going on? Everyone needs the same amount of sleep every night, so why doesn’t everyone sleep at the same time? The answer has to do with sleep chronotypes.
What is a Sleep Chronotype?
“Chrono,” means “relates to time,” and “type” refers to one of four ways that people are classified into groups. Our sleeping patterns, behaviors, and characteristics all vary from person to person. These behaviors are classified with “chronotypes,” which essentially means the specific circadian rhythms that define individual levels of alertness and activity throughout the day. Some people are a morning person by nature, while others are not.
A Quick Breakdown of the Chronotypes
Each of these animals corresponds with a certain type of person and their activity levels:
Bear- According to research, about 55% of us are a Bear. This means you prefer to go to sleep around 11 pm and wake up at 7 am. Your ideal times to focus to the best of your ability are from 10 am to 2 pm. It’s best to schedule meetings and anything else that is important enough to require intense attention during these four hours. Bears will typically struggle with an afternoon decrease in energy after eating lunch, and feel the most lethargic around 2 to 4 p.m.
Lion- This chronotype, which accounts for 15% of the population, feels most alive in the morning hours. Their energy levels peak before noon, meaning they are able to complete massive amounts of work before breaking for lunch. Waking up early is a breeze for Lions and it is not uncommon for them to finish their entire day of work before midday. However, just as fast as energy for a Lion is gained, it’s lost. Don’t schedule anything important with a Lion after 4 pm!
Wolf- Just like their real life counterparts, a Wolf doesn’t get going until the sun sets! Only around 15% of the population are a Wolf. If you didn’t know anything about sleep chronotypes, you would call these people a night owl. They often fall asleep after midnight and sleep until after 8 am. It is best if these people are allowed to work from home at a time that’s ideal for them, which is often pretty late into the evening. Wolf chronotypes are most productive at night. They often get two bursts of creative energy, one around noon and the second arriving after 6 p.m. when most of their team members have finished their work for the day.
Dolphin- The smallest amount of the population belongs in the Dolphin group. Dolphins have a hard time waking up in the morning, but once they get going, their productivity sky rockets. They typically end for the day just before midnight and are back up again by 6:30. You may realize this doesn’t add up to eight hours, and you’re right. Dolphins are typically described as Insomniacs, because it’s nearly impossible to turn their brains off. Dolphins are known to overthink the day’s successes and failures while lying in bed. There is typically an underlying chronic tiredness for Dolphins due to their anxious sleeping behaviors. They often have a hard time falling asleep each night and rarely get the full night of sleep their body needs without serious effort.
How Learning Your Chronotypes can Help Your Everyday Life
Instead of fighting your body’s natural rhythm with a sleep schedule that doesn’t work, it’s best to work with your chronotype. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of a personal chronotype starts with knowing yours. That being said, knowing your sleep chronotype is only one part of it. You also need to learn how to apply your chronotype to be more productive.
As you read over the chronotypes, you probably already got a few ideas based on their definitions alone. If you identify as a Wolf, it obviously wouldn’t be a good idea to schedule an important business meeting for the first thing on a Monday morning. That doesn’t mean a Wolf is worse to be than a Lion. Every chronotype has its strengths and weaknesses! All you need to do is plan your schedule for maximum productivity, including when it’s best for you to engage in “deep work” and when you should aim to handle easier tasks, or no tasks at all.
Our biological or inner clock is determined by our genes. In fact, three scientists won the Nobel Prize in 2017 for discovering the clock gene. There’s no fighting what chronotype you are, so it’s a much better idea to embrace it and plan your life around it! Adapting your work schedule to your chronotype, and thus working when you are at your biological best can greatly improve your attention to detail, ability to focus, concentration, productivity, and overall performance at work. As a Bear, the best time to schedule important meetings is mid-morning, and anything after lunch should require less intense thought and creativity. Late afternoon and into the night is when the best work is done by a Wolf. Lions have the energy and time to get everything important out of the way first thing in the morning. Easing into the day with simple tasks will warm up the brain for Dolphins. Dolphins need to pay particular attention to their nighttime routine. While a Bear or Wolf may be able to fall asleep easily, a Dolphin requires time to unwind from any distractions that could keep them from getting shut-eye. Try taking a bath, reading, or writing in a sleep journal.
No matter what chronotype you are, there is one thing everyone has in common: sleep is essential to your health, happiness, and overall wellbeing. Is your bed holding you back from getting the deep, restorative sleep you need? Whether you’re a Bear, Lion, or anything in between, you need a true sleep oasis to climb into each night. A premium mattress made by PranaSleep is the best place to begin building one!