Is Your Sleep Chronotype Affecting Your Health?

This article is written by Rachael Gilpin. 

Our biology affects our health in many ways. But did you know that the rhythms in which we sleep can influence our productivity and physical well-being?

Our culture tends to applaud those individuals who are early to bed and early to rise. However, if you’re the type who prefers to wake up slowly and stay up late working the night away, you’re not alone. There is a perfectly logical chronotype to explain your late-night productivity habits.

We’ve dived into the research to help you figure out why your sleep chronotype affects your health, and how you could make the most of your type.

What is a sleep chronotype?

Everyone has DNA that makes each of us unique, and as a result, we have innate inclinations specific to our genes. According to a study at the University of Surrey, the human population has at least three different rest patterns, early, normal, and delayed. A bit less than half of the population falls in the normal category and the rest fall somewhere in the early or delayed categories

How your chronotype can affect your health

We often don’t think of sleep as something that directly affects our health, but it could significantly impact and affect us more than we may realize. Struggling against one’s chronotype, or natural circadian rhythm could be detrimental to both our mental and physical health.

If you naturally go to sleep late, yet you’re regularly waking up early, this could cause a vital rest deficit, resulting in severe health conditions. According to the UK NHS, constantly fighting against your chronotype can result in a lack of sleep, potentially prompting an array of health issues like heart disease, stress, diabetes, and obesity. 

Is Your Sleep Chronotype Affecting Your Health? | The Health Sessions

Identify Your Chronotype & Personal Circadian Rhythm

Dr. Michael Breus is a clinical psychologist who studies sleep, and he’s created a quiz that could help you identify your chronotype, allowing you to adjust your life to better suit your needs by rearranging your schedule to make the most of the hours that you feel energized.

Lion

Lions easily wake up bright and early with plenty of energy. They’re often sharpest in the morning, and it’s not unusual for these types to get most of their tasks done before many people even wake up. Despite their chipper start, it’s difficult for Lions to maintain this energy later in the day. They often flag in the evening, even appearing bored at dinner with friends, so they are better suited to go to bed early before 10 PM.

Wolf

Wolves tend to wake up slowly and need time to get started. They often snooze their alarm clocks and may require a few cups of coffee to jumpstart their mornings. If you’re a Wolf, try to walk or cycle to work if you can manage it.  This time to yourself could help you mentally gear up for the day ahead. Wolves often work best in the afternoon and evenings, and it’s easier for them to stay up late.

Bear

Bears often follow a standard day/night schedule. They wake up when the sun rises and feel drowsy when it sets. These types usually get 8 hours of sleep but may still have trouble waking up. 

If you’re a Bear that feels sluggish in the morning, try to resist getting more than 8 hours of sleep as this could be detrimental to your slumber cycle.

Dolphin

These types are light sleepers and often awaken easily from small sounds or slight changes in lighting. Due to Dolphins’ high intelligence, they’re typically perfectionists and can spend significant periods in bed ruminating over their day or what lies ahead. These chronotypes frequently don’t feel well-rested due to restless sleep, so it’s extra important that they get proper nutrients and exercise to feel at their best.

Is Your Sleep Chronotype Affecting Your Health? | The Health Sessions

Make Your Chronotype Work For You

You want to work in rhythm with other forces, not against them, and learning the circadian habits of how your body functions could help. We’ll detail how you might work with your internal clock to harness positive, restful, and energetic results.

Practice good sleep health

If you wake up early in the morning but have a terrible habit of staying up late, you likely aren’t getting the proper amount of zzz’s. This deficit could have a devastating effect on your morning energy, and if you’re a Lion, this is the time you could be generating optimal productivity.

Alternatively, if you’re a Wolf and find yourself slow to start in the morning, and more focused late at night, try to organize your day to suit. Maybe your partner could make the kids breakfast, and you could handle dinner, letting you get the morning rest you need so you can feel better later on in the day.

Re-organize your day

If you typically suffer from a post-lunch energy crash, scheduling essential tasks earlier in the day could be more helpful when your focus is at its peak. If you’re able to shuffle your schedule so that your most important meetings or responsibilities occur during periods that better suit your energy pattern, you could maximize your productivity.

In addition to tasks, your relationships with clients, friends, family, and even yourself, could benefit from receiving the best of your attention. Being able to listen intently, follow along in meetings, or be mentally present with your child could bring greater results when you’re at the top of your game.

Manage stress

Mis-managing stress, if left untreated, could potentially result in severe health conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, getting adequate slumber could help reduce stress and alleviate these conditions. Additionally, they note that heart disease could be linked to anxiety and depression, two conditions that have been shown repeatedly to be connected with poor sleep.

If you’re a Wolf and need to sleep later in the morning hours to feel your best, it’s not a bad idea to re-organize your day so you can function at your peak. There is no shame in re-organizing flexible meetings to later times so you can show up as your best self.

Work with your partner

As a Lion, you might enjoy getting up early in the day and going to bed before 10 pm, and your Wolf partner may like working late into the night when they can focus best. If your opposite peak hours throw a wrench in your sleep care, discuss how you might better accommodate your needs together. If the desk is in your bedroom and you hear them clicking away after you’ve closed your eyes, maybe you could find a better spot for them to work.

Alternatively, if your partner needs extra shut-eye in the morning, but you like to be up early, maybe you could get the kids ready for school, and they could take over the bath and bedtime routine.

Is Your Sleep Chronotype Affecting Your Health? | The Health Sessions

Conclusion

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, research has shown correlations with nearly all psychiatric disorders and sleep disruption. Getting proper rest is imperative for our mental and physical wellbeing, but we realize it’s not always that easy. You’re not alone.

Pay attention to how you feel, and if you’re concerned about your sleep patterns, there are plenty of further resources on chronotypes to help guide you and offer advice. However, sleep chronotype work is not a substitute for insomnia aid, although it could help. 

If you have insomnia it’s always wise to consult a doctor. Otherwise, if you’re like many Americans who suffer from poor sleep habits, we hope our guidance can offer some relief.

Author Bio: Rachael Gilpin is a content writer who covers everything and anything related to sleep, from mattress reviews to the newest science behind sleep technology and wellness breakthroughs.

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Jennifer Mulder


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01/01/2017
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