Benjamin Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” and since then, parents around the globe haven’t gone a single day without reminding this to their ‘night-owl’ children. My mother takes it up a notch by casually mentioning the life story of really successful people who claim to start their day at 4 am to drag me out of bed in the morning. She, of course, is entirely oblivious to the fact that 4 am is actually when I go to bed. In my defence, I am my creative best after midnight—which is also when I came across the existence of chronotypes. Turns out, the inclination to work at night or in the morning is not only determined by the environment or age but is genetically encoded, this is called the chronotype.
Rethinking Sleep Variation
According to the Sleep Foundation, chronotype is the “natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time, or what most people understand as being an early bird versus a night owl. In addition to regulating sleep and wake times, chronotype has an influence on appetite, exercise, and core body temperature. It is responsible for the fact that you feel more alert at certain periods of the day and sleepier at others.”
An early bird may wake up fresh and chirpy for a 7 am shift only to be hit by a late afternoon slump while that’s the time when a night owl’s energy levels may being to rise. Trying to perform activities that require concentration or creativity may be difficult for both groups during non-peak times. But because the world works around the sleep patterns of early risers, it’s usually easier for morning people to accomplish the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep than a night person who has trouble falling asleep until after midnight. This leads to what’s termed as social jetlag– the conflict between a person’s natural chronotype and the demands of their schedule.
We need to work with our bodies, not against them and structuring your day around your chronotype can be that missing piece of the puzzle to boost your productivity.
Types Of Chronotypes
According to Dr Michael J. Breus, also known as ‘The Sleep Doctor’, there are four chronotypes represented as animals that can help you live in sync with your natural rhythm and maximise your creativity, productivity and sleep.
Know those people who show up to work extra enthusiastic to take on the day? Yep, probably a lion. This chronotype is a textbook morning person who likes to wake up before sunrise, often with a lot of energy and finishes their to-do list before noon. 15% of the population identifies with the Lion. Ideal sleeping hours are 10 pm-6 am with peak productivity during 8 am-12 pm. Their energy usually fizzles out by 3 pm and they often get sluggish in the afternoon. A power nap in the early afternoon time can help boost energy.
With 55% per cent of the population resonating with this chronotype, the typical western work schedule is formed around the bear. Like real bears, this chronotype tends to follow the solar cycle, they rise with the sun and lose energy as it sets with typically no trouble waking up or going to sleep. Recommended sleep hours for a bear are 11 pm-7 am. They’re more productive earlier during the day with their best work hours being between 10 am-2 pm. Bears are likely to experience a post-lunch slump and so scheduling meetings and finishing up important work before that is advisable.
If you find yourself hitting the snooze button constantly, struggle to wake up early and are often groggy in the morning, you might be a wolf. The modern-day equivalent of the night owl, this chronotype forms about 15% of the population. Their sleep timings are 12 am-8 am/ as late as they can get away with, and tend to be more productive later in the day when others are winding down. They feel quite fatigued between 7 am-1 pm and work best from 5 pm-12 am which is why the wolf has a hard time adhering to a typical nine-to-five work schedule. They can have a more fruitful day by starting with more straightforward tasks while accumulating momentum for more analytical and creative work in the late afternoon and evening. Hydrate your body and get some morning light to wake up fresh in the mornings and limit screen time at night to be able to sleep faster.
Lastly, we have the Dolphin who often struggles with waking up and falling asleep. They’re often diagnosed with insomnia and tend to be light sleepers as they’re very sensitive to external factors like noise and light. 10% of the population identifies with this chronotype and are the most focused and productive from around 3 pm – 9 pm. Their sleep timings are 11:30 pm – 6:30 am, however, they often find themselves awake at odd hours. Therefore it’s recommended that they take multiple breaks during the day to recharge. Generally highly intelligent, dolphins have a hard time turning off and unwinding, so it’s recommended that they journal their thoughts before bed.