Although we all have a 24 hour circadian rhythm, where it peaks and troughs is often a differing factor between us. Our DNA dictates whether we are a morning person, known as a ‘lark’, or alternatively an evening person known as an ‘owl’. Larks love to wake up early and feel most energised in the earlier part of the day, winding down with the onset of evening. Conversely owls feel awake in the evenings and at nighttime, often finding it hard or impossible to get an early night and waking late in the morning and sometimes even the afternoon. These specific sleep/wake patterns are called our chronotypes and are often decided by our genetics with either our mother or father (or both) being the same chronotype.
Significant research has been done on the link between chronotype and personality type, showing that the two are very linked. For example larks tend to be much more agreeable and conscientious than owls who demonstrate more neurotic and moody personality traits. The latter could be explained by a more erratic sleep schedule, less inclination to work out and eat well leading to higher cortisol levels, increased anxiety and depression. However, importantly, some adverse lifestyle choices are quite often due to a mismatch between chronotype and workday. An owl for example may not naturally excel in a job that has a very early morning start whereas a lark would. Getting that balance in reality is very difficult but understanding what chronotype you are is a good start.
Dr Michael Breus, a renowned sleep doctor, helps with this identification process. He further adds colour to the chronotype phenomenon by breaking them into 4 types: Lion, Bear, Wolf and Dolphin.
Lion (15% of us)
Personality Traits: leaders, organised, conscientious, practical.
Typical Behaviours: into health and fitness, hard workers, impatient, likes strategising
Sleep Schedule: early risers who seize the day. Lions have the most energy in the morning tapering off as evening comes.
Bear (55% of us)
Personality Traits: extroverted, social, friendly.
Typical Behaviours: avoids conflict, good in team situations, seeks happiness, adapts well to 9-5 workday.
Sleep Schedule: wake up groggy in the morning and feel tired later evening. Most active around noon. Their sleep schedule revolves around the sun rising and setting.
Dolphin (10% of us)
Personality Traits: introverted, creative, neurotic, intelligent.
Typical Behaviours: appreciate aesthetics, detail-obsessed, doesn’t like risk, a perfectionist.
Sleep Schedule: light sleepers who often nap during the day. Dolphins are most prone to insomnia and erratic sleep schedules.
Wolf (20% of us)
Personality Traits: creative, more introverted, fearless, moody.
Typical Behaviours: risky takers, seeks pleasure, can take on significant workload.
Sleep Schedule: true ‘owls’ they feel most awake at night. Find it very difficult to wake up in the morning, preferring to rise in the afternoon when their energy increases.
Whatever your chronotype, you should optimise for yours. This may mean getting all your important work done in the morning or perhaps aiming to be creative in the late evenings. Ensuring your sleep schedule is on track as well will help you maximise your lifestyle and avoid making bad choices. Good sleep is essential to all chronotypes and making that a priority, whether you prefer to sleep straight through for 7 hours or take naps at intervals, is key to a happier healthier life.
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