How to Use Chronotypes for Better Sleep

Jul 07, 2020

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. 

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

 

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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.



Sources

CBS News: CBS This Morning: What’s Your Chronotype? How to Find the Perfect Time to Do Everything

ScienceDirect: Chronotype 

Healthline: What Are Chronotypes? 

The Sleep Doctor, Michael J. Breus, PhD: 5 Things to Know – and DO – If You Aren’t Sure Your Chronotype is Right

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Genetics Home Reference: PER3 Gene

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