by Dan Ketchum
We know that humans are diurnal creatures (we generally stay active during daylight) and the idea of individual biological clocks and circadian rhythms is nothing new.
To better understand your sleep/wake patterns, look to chronotypes, which neatly categorize our unique patterns into four easy to digest types. Chronotypes can help each of us maximize our energy by sleeping and performing our daily routine in an optimal timeframe.
So how do they work? Here, we break down what you need to know to use chronotypes for better sleep.
What is a chronotype?
Michael Breus, Ph.D., a sleep specialist, clinical psychologist and author of The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype, is a key figure in popularizing the notion of the chronotype, so we’ll leave it to him to explain their basis in sleep science.
As he tells CBS This Morning, “It’s biologically driven. It’s based on your genetics. As a matter of fact, it’s the PER3 gene ... actually the length of it tells us a lot about what time you want to sleep and how much you want to sleep.”
That PER3 gene is the “period circadian regulator 3,” which the U.S. National Library of Medicine calls the “primary pacemaker” of the mammalian brain. It’s our internal timekeeper, sending our body signals not only on our desired sleep cycle, but also helping regulate physiological activities ranging from metabolism to body temperature to a functioning immune system.
In short, having a general idea of your PER3 genetic makeup — as represented by a handy chronotype — potentially affects all of these factors.
What is my chronotype?
So here’s the fun part. You’ve heard of early birds and night owls, right? Well, we’re not too far from that territory, as chronotypes have been categorized into four basic personality types, each represented by a different animal.
- The Bear (about 50% of people): Extroverted bears balance open-mindedness with caution, finding comfort in familiarity. They’re also comfy to be around – Dr. Breus dubs them the “glue of society.”
- The Lion (15 to 20% of people): Lions are often leaders. These practical, organized people don’t like to deviate from a schedule. They rarely nap.
- The Wolf (15 to 20% of people): Before you knew what a chronotype was, you probably called wolves “night owls.” Intense creative types are often wolves, who follow their impulses and emotional cues.
- The Dolphin (10% of people): Often very intelligent folks, dolphins may also be a little obsessive and err on the side of caution. If you’re a perfectionist and a light sleeper, you might be a dolphin.
What is my animal chronotype?
If you need more help discovering your chronotype, you can take this chronotype quiz.
Your chronotype, your sleep cycle
Now that you know your chronotype, it’s time to leverage that into a sleep cycle that suits your PER3 makeup (with a little help from FOCL Night, which is totally chronotype-agnostic).
- Bears sleep with the sun, waking at sunrise and crashing around sunset. They’re most alert and productive from the mid-morning through the early afternoon and may experience energy dips in the late afternoon hours.
- Lions sleep best if they hit the hay around 8:30 to 10 p.m. and they often rise early, sometimes even before dawn. They typically find themselves most alert around noon.
- Wolves usually go to be late — like early a.m. hours late — and wake up around noon. Wolves often feel energetic from around noon to 4 p.m., with potential for another energy spike in the evening.
- Dolphins are hard to pin down, as they don’t always follow a regular sleep schedule. If you’re a dolphin, follow your body’s sleep impulses rather than guilting yourself about your schedule and enjoy windows of productivity around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or late at night.
Speaking to Healthline, certified sleep science coach Eva Cohen says, “knowing your chronotype may help you understand how your internal clock works and how you can synchronize it with your daily activities and duties to use your time most efficiently.”
So it’s not just about sleep cycles — knowing your chronotype means you know your energetic peaks and valleys, which means you know the best time to do just about everything.
Can you change your sleep chronotype?
Sometimes people are compelled to change their chronotype owing to work demands, school timing or family or health issues. It is not easy to can’t change our chronotypes.
Although you can use your knowledge of chronotypes to understand your inherent sleep cycle. This will help in improving your sleep quality and work performance. You can set your ideal bed and wake times. And slowly work towards organizing your schedule to wake up at the desired time.
Here are a few doctor-recommended tips to help change your sleep chronotype:
- Gradually change your bedtime - sleep experts recommend slowly shifting your sleep time earlier and earlier till you reach the desired time slot. You can start by going to sleep anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours earlier each night.
- Let lighting help you realign your body’s clock - limit your exposure to gadgets that emit blue light around bedtime. Go for nightlights with amber or red bulbs that mimic sunset colors. The body is highly sensitive and releases the sleep hormone melatonin around sunset.
- Developing a pleasant nighttime schedule - it’s not easy to start sleeping early suddenly. Gradually create sleep routines that send a bedtime signal to your brain. Light stretches, reading books, journaling meditation, deep breathing, and aromatherapy, to help you develop a relaxing nighttime routine
- Aim for the bigger goal - somedays, you might not follow your regular schedule. Start afresh the next day. Motivate and reward yourself for the smaller achievements and keep trying till you get accustomed to your new sleep pattern.
- Improve your eating habits - studies reveal that people who sleep late, tend to have their meals later. Start working on having eaten meals earlier and eat your heavy meals during the day. Sleep researchers recommend that you limit caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
- Exercise - in a recent study, people with an evening chronotype could modify their sleep cycle to an early schedule exercising either in the morning or in the evening.
- Work with sleep specialists - if all the above do not work, work with a sleep specialist. The sleep study expert will guide you and help you better understand your body’s needs and patterns.
How long does it take to change your sleep cycle?
Research reveals that fasting for about 16 hours could reset our sleep patterns for a temporary period. This is especially useful while travelling across time zones. Even for non-jetlag sleep clock purposes, you could try a 16-hour fast.
Changing your sleep chronotype in the long-run, it is a slow and steady process. Follow the above steps to gradually adjust to your new chronotype.
How to promote better sleep?
It’s a blessing to have a calm and rested night’s sleep. A relaxed and peaceful mind attributes to a good sleeping pattern.
At FOCL, our sleep products do not contain melatonin. They are designed to make you fall asleep quicker and better.
Our FOCL Night Capsules are created using our premium CBD with five soothing botanicals for a deep night's sleep. We created the ultimate plant-powered sleep aid supplement tailored to aid you in falling asleep quicking and waking up rejuvenated.
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FOCL Sleep Drops contain a premium carrier oil that supports a healthier brain. If you are trying to adjust your sleep chronotype, these products might offer you just the solution that you have been looking for.
Dan has been a freelance writer and small business owner since 2009. In the healthcare and cannabis realms, he’s fortunate enough to have collaborated with the likes of Civilized Life, Cetaphil, LIVESTRONG, VitaGenne, DermStore, B-Great, JillianMichaels.com and more as a writer, with work appearing in publications such as USA Today, The Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, among others.