How To Optimize Your Sleep Type For More Energy, Based On Your Chronotype
If you've ever wondered why some people are natural early birds and others are night owls, it's because each of us falls under one of four different "sleep chronotypes." Each type has preferred wake times and varying energy levels, so understanding yours can make a big difference in how you feel throughout the day. (Here's a quiz to figure out your type!)
So, we asked board-certified sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., for his best tips for each chronotype. Once you know yours, check out what Breus had to say and prepare to optimize your sleep.
Breus tells mbg there's a simple formula you can use to figure out the best bedtime for you. Bear types, in this case, typically get five full (90-minute) sleep cycles in one night and like to wake up around 7 a.m.
So, Breus explains, five sleep cycles come out to 450 minutes, plus the roughly 20 minutes it takes to fall asleep. That's 470 minutes, subtracted from 7 a.m., which gives you an optimal bedtime at 11:10 p.m.
On top of going to bed at your optimal bedtime, Breus previously explained to mbg that bear types tend to operate along with the sun, waking and going to bed relatively early. This makes them the most productive in the morning, so they would do well to avoid scheduling bigger tasks in the afternoon when they might hit a midday slump.
Unlike bears, wolves usually only sleep for four full sleep cycles (which comes out to 360 minutes), and they can take up to 40 minutes to fall asleep. Given that wolves like to wake up around 7 a.m., subtract those 400 minutes in bed and you get a bedtime of roughly midnight.
This type can struggle with grogginess in the morning as well, so Breus suggests hydrating as soon as you wake up and getting some exposure to light to help signal to your body that it's time to get alert. They can also consider a sleep-supporting supplement to help them fall asleep faster when they're really struggling.*
And lastly, wolves tend to be the most productive later in the day, so they do best with calm, slow mornings and bigger tasks late in the day—even as late as after dinner!
If one of the chronotypes is a true morning person, it's the lion. They can easily wake up at the crack of dawn, with Breus telling mbg they're keen on a 6 a.m. wake-up time. These folks also sleep for five full sleep cycles and take about 20 minutes to fall asleep.
When you do the math, if a lion is getting up at 6 a.m., that means they should go to sleep around 10:10 p.m., according to Breus.
Lions can be prone to sluggishness as they get through the afternoon, so Breus suggests getting some light exposure later in the day if you need to catch a second wind. With that in mind, lions are also most productive in the morning and ideally should avoid important tasks in the afternoon when possible.
And last but certainly not least, we have the dolphin. These folks often struggle with waking up and falling asleep. Breus tells mbg they typically sleep for four sleep cycles and can take up to 40 minutes to fall asleep.
Their optimal wake-up time is 6:30 a.m., Breus says, so when you do the math, that comes out to an 11:50 p.m. bedtime. He adds that it's a good idea for dolphins to keep a "worry journal," to help them get their thoughts out before bed.
This type is also the most focused and productive from the midafternoon and through the evening, so it's a good idea for them to keep their morning responsibilities light. Dolphins also may need to take "recharge" breaks during the day. (Power nap, anyone?)
The bottom line is, the sleep schedule that works for one person may not work for another, so figuring out your chronotype is a great place to start if you're buffing up your sleep hygiene. And of course, as Breus says, the biggest factor in working with your personal chronotype is to keep your routine as consistent as possible.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.