WHAT'S YOUR CHRONOTYPE, And What Does it Mean For Your Health?
When it comes to health, wellness, and personal self-work, we understand there are a plethora of “types” out there. From our Meyers-Briggs to our Dosha, there is something for everyone and everything, for every corner of our body and psyche. So what is a chronotype, and why do we need to know it?
Simply put, chronotypes determine your sleeping patterns, and there’s no wrong way to be. We typically think of morning people—the early risers among us— as more ambitious, successful go-getters, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Night owls who like to sleep in are just as successful and productive as the early-to-bed, early-to-rise folk. They just do things in different shifts. Wabi sabi, baby.
Dr. Michael Breus is a certified sleep doctor and author of The Power of When, a book that dives into different chronotypes (there are more than two),helping us discover our power and harness our most energetic time of day to do good by ourselves, others, and our prospective jobs.
Dr. Breus shares some mind-shattering wisdom about the amount of sleep we need, too. We’re all so used to hearing that 8 hours is ideal, right? Well, how come some of us can rarely clock 8 hours, and when we do we feel groggy? Or why do some excel repeatedly on a solid 9 hours? Well, we’re all wired a little differently. We are sleep-programmed according to our individual needs, making knowing our chronotype more intimately steal away some of the stress around sleeping well and what we “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing.
Of course, life gets in the way of our ideal sleep schedules sometimes, and we may have to tweak our rhythms in order to start taking a morning class, catch an early flight, be a new parent, etc. But when we work with our Mother Nature and honor our biologically predetermined sleep rhythm, we are able to perform optimally and make the best decisions.
Knowing our chronotype can help us mitigate expectations, and figure out the best time of day to be creative, to work out, to problem solve, to relax and wind down, and more. Dr. Breus categorizes these chronotypes into four parts: Bears, Lions, Wolves, and Dolphins. These wild animal names help these chronotypes resonate and lock into our memories, so bear with us. (Pun intended.)
We all have our own circadian sleep rhythms, but bears are very standard in that they rise with the sun, and have no issues sleeping when night falls. In fact, most people are actually bears. They perform well at a 9-5, because they are most productive smack in the middle of the morning, and feel a little lull when it’s time for lunch (and oftentimes right afterwards, oops). Bears tend to have reliable midday energy, and require a small reprieve, snack, or walk in the afternoon for a little recharge to hold them over ‘til the night’s sleep.
These are our night howlers. They tend to get a later start on their day, and start to pick up steam when most people are thinking about happy hour and slipping into their stretchy pants. Uniquely, wolves have peak moments of productive time. They can get a lot done from about noon to 2, and then again at that golden hour until late into the evening. It’s not always the case, but we see a lot of artists, musicians, writers, and techies (think: programmers) who exist in the wolf world. They can tend to be introverted, and work amazing solo.
Lions are our beloved morning crew. They are ambitious first thing in the morning, and can really get a ton completed before most people (ehem, bears) are even sipping their first cup of joe. Lions tend to be type A, fitness fanatics, and are most productive early on. They start to wind down in the late afternoon, and go to bed early. Bless their busy little hearts.
Last on Dr. Breus’s list is the dolphin, and a (sometimes) playful, (oftentimes) unpredictable one it is. They may or may not have a regular, predictable sleep routine. They tend to sleep lighter, and are prone to waking up from soft sounds or changes in temperature. They can have trouble falling asleep, suffer insomnia, anxiety, tension, and are kept awake by a too-busy mind. These people tend to be perfectionists and self-sabotagers, and this can be a symptom of the excess stress keeping them up. They tend to be most productive mid-morning through early afternoon, and despite their sleep troubles, they get it done.
There are quizzes to help determine our chronotypes, and knowing yours may quell some of the worries you may have around your own circadian rhythms. Why are we so different from our spouse or partner? Or best friend? Co-worker? Boss? We are all genetically different, and comparing our sleep to another’s won’t serve us. Adjusting our sleep pattern to our chronotype can help boost creativity, productivity, energy, mood, and alleviate stress, so check in with yourself. Find out who you really are when it comes to sleep, and work with it. Your life just might change.