Many believe that being a morning person means you are superior to those that wake up and stay up late. The shocking truth is, that even night people can be as productive as morning people, it all depends on letting your schedule work for you.
According to sleep expert and author, Dr. Michael Breus, your unique sleep chronotype (otherwise known as wiring) determines when you’ll be the most energetic throughout the day. By now you surely know if you’re an early bird or a night owl, so I won’t explain that any further but Dr. Breus takes this one step further with four distinctive sleep chronotypes. These chronotypes can assist you in figuring out the best times to make important decisions, physically exert yourself, or pitch that idea to your boss.
If you’ve ever felt lazy or unmotivated whilst your co-workers are already awake and alert, read on to discover just which sleep chronotype suits you and how small changes to your schedule can help you reclaim your days.
What is sleep chronotype?
Chronotypes have been around for as long as the Latin language existed. The word ‘chrono’ refers to the time of the sleep and regular activities of an animal (e.g. nocturnal animals are active at night). However, in the context of human beings, chronotype refers to more than just when you rise and when you sleep. It stands for your body’s natural ‘timeline’ for various primal activities that are completed throughout the day, such as eating, sleeping, and having sex.
Essentially, if you’re a ‘night owl’, you should understand why you feel so ‘dazed and confused’ compared to all those early birds.
How do chronotypes work?
Chronotypes are based on genetics, specifically your PER3 gene. Your chronotype is directly tied to your circadian rhythms and your internal body clock. In fact, early birds typically have longer PER3 genes, whilst night owls have shorter ones. Your PER3 gene also dictates how much sleep your body needs. Early birds require much more, whilst night owls need much less.
Early birds and night owls are the most common names you’ll hear when someone talks about chronotypes but according to research conducted by ‘sleep experts’ there are four main chronotypes, and no they don’t consist of a bird and an owl.
Find your chronotype
As mentioned above, sleep scientists claim there are now four main chronotypes, these are the bear, lion, wolf, and dolphin. So which one are you? The best way to find out is by taking the official quiz created by the expert himself, Dr. Michael Breus. This 45 second quiz will help you understand your natural rhythms, which in turn will help you make small changes to recapture your energy throughout the day.
Roughly half the world’s population consists of this main chronotype, the Bear. Bears have a steady amount of energy they can exert throughout the day to get things done. They can stay productive throughout the day so long as they don’t try to push past the mid-afternoon recharge period. A bears body clock will actively track the rise and fall of the sun, which is how they are able to rise around 7 am. Upon waking up, a high-protein breakfast should be consumed, whilst avoiding a morning coffee until 8:30 am or 90 minutes after getting out of bed. A bear’s workday should be split with draining tasks requiring focus being completed in the morning, leaving creative tasks for the afternoon. Dinner habits should consist of eating a relatively light meal after a 6 o’clock exercise routine. Finally, after eating a light dinner, a bear should spend a few hours prior to bed winding down.
According to Dr. Breus, majority of the population envy lions, due to their ability to wake up and get going at ridiculous hours in the morning. Loins are the leaders, who will avoid coffee until just before lunch time, once they’ve passed their productive hours. Due to their action-packed mornings, they will typically fizzle out in the evening and require an early sleep. A lions morning routine should consist of eating and hydrating as soon as they wake up, prior to planning their day. Their work day should consist of analytical and logical tasks being completed in the morning, whilst brainstorming and other creative tasks should be completed in the afternoon. A lions exercise and dinner schedule should be completed around 5pm, first with a work out, then an average dinner. For maximum efficiency, a lion should hit the hay around 10pm.
Wolves embody the traditional ‘night owl’, meaning they have a hard time launching into a full on work day early in the morning. Wolves start later in the day and ride the productivity wave until the late hours of the night. A wolf has two peak periods, from 12pm to 2pm and after the majority of the world has clocked out (5pm and onwards). Majority of wolves work in the creative field as writers, artists, and coders, this is due to the brain lighting up when the sun goes down. In fact, a wolf will lean towards introversion and crave being alone. To bypass the need to start working at 12pm (for those unlucky few that work 9-5), Dr. Breus recommends wolves start their day at 8am with breakfast, then some physical activity. Caffeine shouldn’t be consumed until at least 11am. The mental peak doesn’t usually occur until later in the day (mostly after that 11am coffee), hence why their morning should be spent planning their day, leaving their afternoons free for meetings, presenting ideas, and completing mentally draining tasks. During the afternoon (when all other chronotypes have hit their barrier), a wolf has a lot more energy. Dinner shouldn’t be consumed until 8pm and alcohol should be avoided anytime after this, as this will interfere with getting a good night's rest.
The dolphin is traditionally those unlucky people that are diagnosed with insomnia, as dolphins traditionally find it quite difficult to sleep. They tend to have irregular sleep routines and are often light sleepers that wake up frequently throughout the night. This is believed to happen because the dolphin will spend their night struggling to fall asleep, ruminating over the day’s failures. Majority of dolphins are extremely intelligent and have a tendency to be perfectionists, which is why they spend so much of their night going over the day. To remain effective, a dolphin should begin their morning with a high-protein breakfast before exercising. The work day should consist of brainstorming and planning in the morning, then completing research and critical thinking projects in the afternoon. The hours between dinner and bedtime can be used for winding down, which means turning off screens and reading a book or relaxing in bed. Dolphin’s are typically light sleepers that will wake throughout the night, whilst failing to maintain a regular sleeping schedule.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
Ever noticed that you feel energised and drowsy around the same time every day? You’ll have to thank your circadian rhythm for that. So what is it? It’s essentially a 24-hour internal clock, running in the background of your brain. Also known as your sleep/wake cycle. Most adults notice a major dip in energy during the middle of the night (typically between 2:00am and 4:00am, when you’re supposed to be fast asleep), and just after lunchtime (when you crave that post-lunch nap). However, these times alter dramatically based on being either a morning or night person. Your circadian is especially noticeable if you’re running on little to no sleep, at which point you’ll notice bigger swings of sleepiness and alertness. A portion of your brain controls your circadian rhythm but outside factors such as light and darkness will also impact it. When it’s dark, your eyes send a signal to your brain, informing it that you should feel tired. Your brain then sends a signal to release melatonin, which makes your body tired. This is why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the shift in day and night (also why it’s so difficult for shift workers to sleep during the day).
When your schedule and chronotype don’t sync
During your teen years, your circadian rhythm will continually alter as part of the maturing process. That’s why the majority of teenagers like to sleep in. Having to rise early for school clashes majorly with a teenagers natural brain patterns which result in insufficient sleep. These unnatural schedules lead to learning and behaviour problems. This applies for the typical 9-5 workday, particularly for wolves and dolphins. As these chronotypes typically work better in the later hours of the day, it can be quite difficult for these workers to remain productive.
Making your chronotype work for you
Just because you’re not a lion or a bear, doesn’t mean your productivity has to falter, in fact with these simple tips, you can increase your productivity regardless of your chronotype. To get the most out of your day, you need to first understand what your brain waves are doing, this is where the chronotypes come in handy. You can gain an understanding thanks to your specific chronotype. Don’t fight your internal rhythms, instead, work with them. If you can’t hop out of bed at 5am to go for a run, find a time that works better for you. Don’t dive into draining tasks if you aren’t sufficiently energised enough, and make sure you consume caffeine at an appropriate time. As you start structuring your workday differently, pay attention to your productivity, energy, and tiredness. Keep tweaking your workday until you achieve a result that keeps you productive.