You may be familiar with circadian rhythms, but that’s not the only component to consider when looking at your bedtime routine. Understanding your sleep chronotype, or circadian typology, can help you sleep better and boost productivity. Once you discover your chronotype, you can align your routine with your body's sleep-wake cycle to make the most of each day.
What are sleep chronotypes?
A person's circadian rhythm controls when melatonin is released in the body and when a person wakes, but a sleep chronotype is more of a set internal clock, existing on a more permanent basis that is less easily manipulated.
There are four sleep chronotypes: bear, lion, wolf, and dolphin. Bears are the most common, and dolphins are rare. Your chronotype is likely to shift from childhood to adulthood and again when you get into your later years. The four chronotypes have distinct differences.
The Bear Chronotype
As a bear, you sleep after the sun sets and are awake when the sun has risen. Most of modern society follows a schedule perfect for bears, which is no surprise since bears are over half of the population. Bears are typically more productive before noon and may experience a decrease in energy between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. If you consider yourself a sound sleeper, who goes to bed when the sun sets and rises with it, you are probably a bear.
The Lion Chronotype
The chronotype most closely associated with being an "early bird" is the lion. Lions sleep earlier than bears and get up earlier in the morning. A lion is most productive in the morning up until noon. If you consider yourself an early riser, with energy and focus in the first half of the day, you are probably a lion.
The Wolf Chronotype
Wolves are the opposite of lions, as a wolf is the "night owl" among the chronotypes. A wolf stays up after dark and sleeps until well after the sun rises. If you find yourself dragging your feet in the mornings, you could be a wolf. This group's productive window is in the afternoon.
The Dolphin Chronotype
Dolphins are the outliers. In stark contrast to bears, dolphins don't stick to any particular sleep schedule. Dolphins are easily disturbed by environmental factors (light, sound, etc.). If you are a little bit of every other sleep chronotype, sleeping at different times and finding yourself awake at odd hours, you're probably a dolphin. A dolphin’s window of productivity is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
How is knowing my sleep chronotype useful?
Knowing your sleep chronotype can lead you to find the optimal times for you to go to sleep, get work done, exercise, drink caffeine, and more. Syncing your schedule with how your chronotype operates means you can improve not only your sleep quality but also your productivity.
If you experience sudden changes in your sleeping patterns or can’t seem to get enough rest, get in touch with a St. Joseph Health Sleep Center for evaluation and guidance. Take our Sleep Assessment to help determine your level of daytime sleepiness.
Healthline | Chronotypes, Sleep, and Productivity Sleep Foundation | Chronotypes