The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. Adequate sleep does a lot more than we think. That quick nap in the bus on your way home or sleeping through that flight or how you doze off in class because of that boring lecture.
We all need sleep (that’s common knowledge) but in diverse ways. This is where chronotype comes in. Not everyone needs to sleep 8 hours at night, it’s more for some and less for others. Understanding how your body and mind works with sleep makes you more productive and healthy.
According to Wiktionary, a Chronotype is the totality of factors, associated with circadian rhythms (the internal body clock that regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants), that determines if an individual is most alert in the morning or evening.
Lexico UK Dictionary defines it as a person’s natural inclination with regards to the time of day when they prefer to sleep or when they are most alert or energetic
Uh-oh! Hope I didn’t lose you there with too many technical terms? 😃 Moving on, chronotypes change over the course of our lives and are sometimes common for a particular age group. For example: Infants are wolves, toddlers are lions, primary school pupils are bears, teens are wolves, adults are bears and senior citizens (elderly) are typically lions or dolphins. It is also important to know that chronotype doesn’t change from age 21-65.
Image Source: Mind Drip Media
KNOWING YOUR CHRONOTYPE AND BEST ROUTINES
Unlike the regular sleep types we are used to; “the early birds and night owls”, Dr. Michael Breus, the sleep doctor, divided sleep types into 4 different categories. These categories are likened to 4 different animals and their behaviors. They are: the BEAR, the WOLF, the LION, and the DOLPHIN.
DOLPHINS: Dolphins are light sleepers and tend to wake up at the slightest noise. They constitute only 10% of the world’s population. They have a low sleep drive with about 5-6 hours of sleep in a day. They struggle to fall asleep and stay awake. They are insomniac. They wake up feeling tired and stressed, they begin to gain their energy in the evening. They are usually neurotic, anxious and irritable. They are intelligent, show attention to details and are perfectionists. Dolphins love to work alone rather than with a group. They struggle most with sleep and need more advice. 6 hours of sleep is most likely the best those in this category can get.
If you’re a Dolphin, these tips are best for you:
Increase energy in the early hours so you can make use of them later in the day.
Decrease anxiety in the evening so you can have a more restful night.
Avoid naps as it will make sleeping at night difficult.
If you get tired, take a short active break like going for a walk.
Wake your body up with a cold shower, a warm shower is good for the evening because it will cause sleepiness.
Avoid heavy carbohydrates when you need energy.
Carbohydrates increase sleepiness, you can eat it for the last meal of the day to help you fall asleep.
As a Dolphin, it’s good to start the day with a morning run or a few easy exercises. Exercise is a good way to start your day if you struggle with energy in the morning. Productivity period is between 10am and 6pm with the highest peak at 10am and 12pm. It’s alright to feel exhausted by noon, just go for a walk by lunch break. Take a light snack such as bananas. Exercise at night but avoid strength exercises because they do not help sleep. Stay away from the screen or gadgets by 10pm, take a warm bath and read a book, this gets you ready for bed by 11pm till you find sleep by midnight. You might not easily find sleep so you’ll have to discover the best sleep environment and the right position to do so.
LION: Lions naturally wake up early. In prehistoric times, these people would take the morning shift of guarding the group. They are about 15-20% of the world’s population. They have a medium sleep drive. They wake up early with a lot of energy and sleep early due to fatigue. They tend to be optimistic over achievers and go-getters. Most CEOs fall into this category. They are health conscious about what they eat and their exercises. They also have high life satisfaction. They assume leadership roles in groups despite tending to be introverts. They are less creative than others and tend to struggle with social events because they are early sleepers and get tired in the evening.
Lions easily get up before sunrise. They complete 80% of their chores before the other sleeping types even wake up. The schedule should be to wake up by 5:30am, prepare breakfast with more protein and fewer carbohydrates. They can exercise or meditate for a few minutes in the morning. It’s better for lions to exercise in the evenings since their peak of energy is in the morning. Exercising early in the morning won’t add much energy to the rest of your day. 10am and 5pm is the most productive time for lions. They get tired by 5pm after work which can be a good time to do some workout. They should go to sleep by 10pm
BEAR: Bears have an energy cycle that rises and falls with the sun. They’re most productive during the day. With a population of about 50%, it’s easy to say most people are bears.
They sleep deeply and rise with the sun. They wake up in a haste wishing they could sleep longer. They are hungry upon waking and often hungry in general. They strive to be healthy but do not always achieve this goal. They are good team players. They are friendly and easy to talk to. They generally have good people skills.
As a bear, wake at 7am and exercise for 8-10 minutes. Get a nice light breakfast which will help you stop eating in the evenings. Their maximum productivity is between 11am-6pm. Exercise between 6pm to 10pm. Have a light dinner with more protein and fewer carbohydrates. 11pm is a good time to sleep, but be in bed and prepare for sleep by 10pm. Never sleep more than 8 hours even on weekends. Sleeping more than 8 hours gets your system tired.
WOLF: Wolves naturally stay up late. They’re just starting to drift off when Lions are waking up. They make up the remaining 15-20% of the population. They tend to wake up late with serious morning tiredness and go to bed late at night after having an energetic evening. They are usually not hungry in the morning but hungry at night like a wolf after dark. They are creative, pessimistic and moody. Although they are comfortable with being alone, they can be extroverted and love a good party. They can be impulsive and open minded and are most likely to be addicts out of all chronotypes.
Wolves are bad with waking up early. It’s good to wake up by 7:30am, most likely with the help of an alarm which might have been set 2 or 3 times before the exact time you want to wake up.
Drink a glass of water near an open window, get some sunlight after waking because it helps in getting some vitamin D which will help you sleep better at night and helps the mind stay awake.
Make yourself your favorite breakfast. A 20-40 minutes’ walk to work will help you stay active for the day. They reach maximum productivity between 12pm-8pm; 2pm is the absolute peak. So the heavy tasks can come earlier than that. Since they sleep late, they can work out at night. It’s good to turn off devices by 11pm and go to sleep by 12 midnight. Have a consistent sleep and wake time, even if you stay up all night it’s good to have a sleep and wake time to avoid what Dr Breus calls Sunday Night Insomnia (drowsiness and the zombie feeling on Monday morning).
By now, you should be able to identify the chronotype you belong to and know what works best for you. Here are a few tips that all chronotypes should be aware of and put into practice.
Drink a glass of room temperature water and eat an hour after waking.
Avoid late night snacking, it makes you gain weight and disrupts your sleep quality.
Alcohol prevents you from getting the right realm of sleep. Do not drink alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
Have coffee after 3-4 hours of waking up and your last cup can be by 2pm.
Napping in the afternoon is a huge performance boost or else you’re a dolphin. Napping in the afternoon will shorten your sleep time at night.
Avoid blue lights and screens an hour before bedtime.
Medications work 7 times better at night or in the evening than in the morning, it’s good to however check with your doctor on the best time to take medication.
Do not fight with your partner if you under slept, it causes over reactivity.
You tend to be irresponsible when you are tired that is why bars and nightclubs don’t have windows and clocks.