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What’s your chronotype?

Published by Amanda Brown on

What's your Chronotype? Are you an early bird or a night owl?

chronotypeAre you awake with the dawn chorus or do you come to life with the stars?

Knowing the optimum times of day when your mind and body are most alert (your chronotype) will help you plan your day for maximum impact. The period of 24 hours is a natural occurrence determined by the rotation of the earth on its axis and it is this period of day and night (albeit of different lengths due to the seasons) which impacts on our waking and sleeping and therefore our routines. Much has been written about the importance of routines and just like diet advice causes a great deal of confusion. In fact, there is a whole website devoted to the morning routines of authors, entrepreneurs, creatives and successful business people; You can find out more here: My Morning Routine.

Whilst it may be ‘fashionable' to boast about getting up at 5.00am and cracking on down to the gym, there's little evidence to suggest that you can battle against your own natural waking time and that if you do, you're likely to disrupt the best times for getting your most important work done. I was very relieved to hear that Arianna Huffington advises between 7 and 9 hours sleep every night and a nap in the day!

We all know owls – those people who seem to drift gently through the day and then come to life after supper when most of us are relaxing and thinking of turning in for the night. These night birds make up only about 20% of the population, and get their drive to get things done when all around is winding down.

I’m more of a lark, but probably the latest to rise of all the larks in the flock as I’m not keen on starting the day at 5.00am like true early birds. They’re catching their worms several hours before me. The scientific term for these groups of people who wake, thrive and go to bed at different times is ‘chronotype’ which is ‘the behavioural manifestation of your biological clock’ or circadian rhythm.

Dr Michael Breus, the Sleep Doctor describes a more detailed classification of chronotypes in his book ‘The Power of When’. He distinguishes between:

  • Bears,
  • Lions,
  • Dolphins and
  • Wolves.

Bears make up about 50-55% of the population who are neither early risers nor owls. They tend to get up with the sun and go to sleep on the early side.  Bears follow the sun and have no difficulty getting to sleep. The best time for bears to carry out the most important tasks of the day is right in the middle of the morning as they tend to feel sluggish in the afternoon.   Bears tend to have a steady flow of energy and can maintain their productivity all day long as long as they avoid that late afternoon slump. They also tend to be warm and friendly people.

Lions on the other hand are the larks. Out hunting before dawn they are frequently Type A personalities (high achieving, motivated, ambitious). Lions are the early risers and are most productive first thing.  Their energy tends to wain in the afternoon so they tend to be early  to bed as well.

15 – 20% of people are Wolves, night owls who prefer to stay up late. They like a later start struggling to get up before 8 a.m.and keep going late into the night. Wolves are most productive from noon until 2 p.m. and again late in the evening.  They are likely to be creative types such as writers artists designers and tend to like their own company.

A small number of people (10%) are Dolphins meaning they are inclined to extreme late night wakefulness and are light sleepers who may wake up several times during the night and who may not get sufficient sleep. They have a tendency to be perfectionist and ruminate over what they have and haven't achieved during the day. the best work is carried out from mid morning through to the early afternoon.

The main take-away from Dr Breus’s work is that you cannot fight your natural chronotype. Whilst we may have different sleeping-waking patterns as children and in old age, for the majority of our working life the pattern is static.

If you would like to find out your chronotype, take the Power of When Quiz

Categories: Productivity

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