You’ve probably heard about circadian rhythms and how it plays an integral role in your sleep and daily functioning. If you don't know, your circadian rhythm regulates your sleep and wake cycle that roughly takes 24 hours to complete. Although everyone’s internal clock is different, there are ways to work with varying circadian rhythms. This is known as your “sleep chronotype”. Identifying your chronotype is a great way to seek out solutions that work specifically for your personal circadian rhythm. On that note, let’s dive into sleep chronotypes.
What are chronotypes?
According to Healthline, “chronotypes are a person’s circadian typology or the individual differences in activity and alertness in the morning and evening.” They basically measure circadian rhythms and offer solutions to get better sleep and optimize daytime productivity. This is especially important for those who want to implement a new sleep routine. Knowing your chronotype is great, as it offers a better idea of how your personal circadian cycle works, and ways to change it so you can use your time more efficiently.
There are 4 main chronotypes we can individually place ourselves in. Funnily enough, they can be categorized into animals: bear, lion, wolf, and dolphin. Most people can be placed into their respective “animals,” but be aware that your internal clock can fall in-between categories as well. Let’s take a look at each chronotype.
Most people are considered to have the “bear” sleep chronotype. People in this field typically sleep and wake with the sun. In a perfect world, they have little to no problem waking up and falling asleep. This category is theoretically the ideal chronotype as it’s the most natural in accordance with our biological system.
Some common traits for people who are labeled as “bears” include extroverted personalities, happily mellow throughout the day, and possessing uplifted spirits. If you are in this group and don’t get enough sleep, expect to feel lethargic sooner than usual and go to bed earlier than normal.
Do you wake up early and feel that most of your energy levels take place before noon? Well, you can consider yourself a lion. People in this group are early risers and typically hit their peak in the morning. On the other hand, they usually start dwindling down in the afternoon and typically require a nap or wind-down session in the evenings.
The characteristics of this chronotype include early rising, natural leaders, and showing charismatic personality. Although not many people can place themselves in this sleep chronotype, lions certainly have the easiest and most natural time waking up in the morning.
Opposite to the lion chronotype is their wolf counterpart. Individuals in this category tend to have a more difficult time waking up and are more productive in the night time. It’s comparable to what we commonly know as “night owls”. As some may know, wolf chronotype individuals often hit snooze in the morning as they often fall asleep very late at night.
Introverted, creative, and introspective are some of the common traits associated with this group. They can get their creative juices flowing when they wake up later, say around noon. However, they don’t typically follow the societal norm of “regular” work hours. So this could be a problem for those who have typical 9 to 5 jobs.
Our last sleep chronotype is the dolphin. If you didn’t know, real dolphins always have half their brain going even when they are asleep. In comparison, people who have a difficult time falling asleep or really, following any sort of sleep schedule can be placed into this group. It’s difficult for people who identify as dolphins to fall asleep because they often possess anxious sleeping behaviors.
People with high-functioning traits like having bursts of energy, being scatterbrained, and showing high levels of intelligence can often associate themselves with this group. Although being in this chronotype seems less than ideal, they can often get through the day with less sleep.
Identifying your personal chronotype
You can typically identify what kind of sleep chronotype you fall under with a general self-assessment test. Some questions to ask yourself include: what time do you usually fall asleep? When do you feel you’re most productive? When do you usually feel tired? Healthline recommends taking some online tests to see where you fall:
These tests are the first steps in finding your specific sleep chronotype. However, it’s important to note that age, environment, and other natural factors can affect which group you fall into. So if you notice that you may be in two groups, that’s definitely normal as well.
How to utilize chronotypes for better productivity
Once you’ve identified your sleep chronotype, it’s time to plan a schedule that’s optimized for better sleep and productivity. Let’s take a look at how each group should plan their sleep and daily schedules.
- Bear: Aim to wake up early at around 7 to 8 am. Plan to work on important tasks in the morning before 12 pm. Why? Most that fall into this category start to doze off in the afternoon. Essentially, leave all the menial and simple tasks for the afternoon and evening.
- Lion: Rise and shine early in the morning. If you’re a lion, you should try to do everything as early as possible because this is when you typically have most of your energy. Lions should also try to implement a sleep routine because they usually need to get more sleep in order to be productive.
- Wolf: Try to save big projects for later in the afternoon, even early in the evening. If you’re not able to work in the later hours, try to take constant breaks in between tasks. This will help recharge your energy and better help you focus more clearly.
- Dolphin: Do one thing at a time. This group needs to prioritize easing into the workday. Start slowly so your brain can properly anticipate the bigger projects. Dolphins don’t necessarily have to follow a schedule, but it’s best to be prepared for those random bursts of creativity.
Hopefully this gives you a general idea of how you can better manage your productivity according to your sleep chronotype. Know that it’s not always an easy feat to consistently follow a sleep schedule. So see what group you fall into first, and slowly take it from there!