Are you a morning or an evening person? Most of us have been asked this question by friends, partners, or even college roommates at one time or another. I’ve never been an evening person; I hate staying awake past 10 pm, and I become progressively less productive throughout the day. But I’ve also never seen myself as a morning person, at least not in the traditional sense: I don’t derive a lot of joy from waking before the sun, and I’m not alert enough to make progress on work just after rolling out of bed. Some people might argue that adjusting one’s sleep schedule is simply a matter of adaptability. In fact, there are endless articles and blog posts that recommend a variety of different tactics and approaches to become an early riser or a night owl. As it turns out, it’s not that simple.
Recent research shows that each of us has a chronotype, or a genetically predetermined sleep schedule, that plays a salient role in how we function throughout the day. Our chronotypes are largely governed by our hormones, which increase and decrease throughout the day and influence our productivity and energy levels. There are four basic chronotype categories: Lions, Wolves, Bears, and Dolphins.
What chronotype are you?
Lions are the stereotypical morning person–they rise early and do their best work between 10 am and noon. If you’re a Lion, monitor your energy levels over the course of the day, as they are likely to decline. Physical activity should take place in the morning or late afternoon. You’re probably best suited to hit the hay around 10 pm.
Wolves are the classic “night owl”–they are most productive in the evenings and don’t turn in until 12 am or later. They’re also more likely to wake up later than Lions. Any rigorous workouts should take place in the evening.
Bears are the most common of these categories: about half of all people fall into this group. Bears’ energy fluctuates, but they are known to be most productive during the day and burn out in the evenings. If you’re a bear, you should try to be in bed no later than 11 pm. Head to the gym in the early or late morning to get the most out of your sweat sesh.
Dolphins experience low energy most of the time, but do have occasional random bursts of motivation. You’re probably a dolphin if you find yourself easily woken by minimal noise or if you often wake up feeling unrefreshed. If you think your chronotype aligns with this category, aim to be your most productive 90 minutes after you wake up.
After evaluating my own sleep schedule and energy levels, I discovered that I’m a Bear: not quite a morning person, not quite an evening person. Of course, not all of us can adhere to these recommendations as closely as we’d like. With work, school, and other modern-day obligations, it’s not always feasible to go for a run at 6 am.
That said, there are plenty of easy and accessible ways to make your chronotype work for you, rather than trying to adopt a schedule that goes against your circadian rhythm. If you’re a Lion, Bear, or Dolphin, try to turn off technology that emits blue light by 9:30 pm (the light lowers levels of natural melatonin). If you’re a Lion or Bear, make sure to spend some time outside each day–taking in natural light will allow you to fall asleep more easily in the evenings. Finally, for all chronotypes, it’s recommended that you make lunch your largest meal, since eating too much at night can contribute to insomnia and potentially interfere with the body’s production of serotonin.
Which chronotype are you? How do you make the most of your natural energy patterns?
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