How your sleep chronotype impacts productivity (and why you're forcing the wrong cycle)

You’ve stayed up late the night before (again) because you were on a roll with the work you needed to get done. Hours have disappeared while you were working and all of a sudden, it was after midnight. You forced yourself to go to bed, but first you set multiple alarms, all with different ring tones to ‘surprise’ yourself to wake up in the morning. You lay in bed, struggling to fall asleep; you’re overtired, restless... and your brain is still alert!


You hear the chimes of a xylophone and somehow your phone has moved from the charger where you left it to under your pillow.


Forcing yourself to wake up early with the sun rise, your eyes sting and body feels heavy, dragging yourself through the morning to get to work (home office or work). The wheels in your head just aren’t turning, even after 2 shots of espresso.


Yeah you've got a lot of shit to get done, and the morning is slipping away – you take a break from the computer screen only to pull out your phone, aimlessly scrolling.


That one friend has gone for an early morning run, another has already been to hot yoga (and before the sun was even up?!), and your bestie shared their outfit of the day – looking put together, flawless, and no under eye bags in sight.



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How?!


For you, the bags are REAL honey and you've peaked around midday, "did someone say lunch??"


Before you know it, it's the arvo and three-thirty-itis has slapped you hard in the face. Somehow, the morning completely disappeared but the minutes in the afternoon seem to be longer?


You’re so tired that you want to just go home and go to bed, but you have so much more to do once you walk through the door – will this day ever end??


Turns out your routine might be out of whack and you can NEVER adapt to early mornings 'cause you're a Wolf (and you’re friends with Lions)...


Now we aren’t talking team Edward versus team Jacob (personally, we're team Jacob). No, no, we’re talking chronotypes!


I hear you say "WTF is a chronotype?"


Well basically, a fancy word for your internal clock.


Clinical psychologist, specialising in sleep, Michael Breus, defined the chronotype theory in his book “The Power of When.” Through his years of experience in practice, he concluded that people can be categorised into four chronotypes: wolf, lion, dolphin and bear.


Your chronotype depends on your sleep pattern and biological rhythm which can ultimately dictate your day-to-day life. Understanding and working within the boundaries of your chronotypes can not only guide you on how much sleep you need, but also on when you should carry out particular activities to really seize the day (or night if you’re a wolf!)



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Let’s break down each chronotype:


Lion


Lions are one of the less common chronotypes by only making up 15% of the population. Lions are most known for being early birds! 7am is considered a sleep in, they are up and moving early. Lions wake up feeling energised, refreshed and ready to grab the day and run with it!


Having a solid evening wind-down routine is important for Lions to recharge for the next day – their most productive hours of the day are between 8am-12pm. Often, Lions need a power nap in the mid-arvo because of their high-energy-hugely-productive morning!


Notable characteristics:

  • Early birds & energised at dawn

  • Natural leaders

  • Charismatic but can be tightly wound

  • Prefer exercise in early hours

  • Need around 7-8 hours sleep

  • Enjoy reading to wind down before bed at 9pm


Bear


Bears are the most common chronotype, representing 55% of the population… so if you’re reading this you’re probably a Bear! They don’t really struggle waking up or falling asleep and often sleep and rise with the sun – thanks circadian rhythm!


Similar to a Lion, Bears are most productive in the morning with their prime hours being 10am-2pm. After that, any work is a struggle and by 4pm bears are ready to wind-down for the day (don’t you find yourself staring at the clock, waiting for 5pm?). Bears do well the next day when hitting the hay around 11pm, but no later – so switch off that phone and get to snoozin’!


Notable characteristics:

  • Pretty extroverted

  • Easy going and easy to get along with

  • Generally mellow in energy

  • Need 8 hours of sleep

  • Exercise before work but tire quickly

  • Prefer meditation or music before bed


Wolf


Wolves are just about as common as a Lion, representing 15-20% of the population – myself included! However, unlike lions, Wolves work better at night. Unsurprisingly, bedtime for Wolves is around midnight as their most productive hours are 5pm-12am.


Due to their prime time being so late, Wolves wake up around 8am in struggle town! In the morning, it takes some time to be firing on all cylinders. The morning should be spent on easy, lighter tasks, and from midday to the early afternoon get any large tasks out of the way.


After the midday peak, Wolves crash between 2pm-5pm, but fire up again in the evening. After the roller coaster of a day of productive hours, midnight rolls around and it’s time for bed.


Notable characteristics:

  • Generally introverted but social

  • Highly creative types

  • Moody and unpredictable at times

  • 8 hours minimum sleep

  • Love to exercise mid-morning or evenings


Dolphin


Dolphins are the rarest chronotype with only 10% of the population under this category. The namesake comes from how real Dolphins behave in the wild, as they are insomniacs due to the threats of the great deep blue, they will sleep with half of their brain at a time!


As a Dolphin chronotype, they are characteristically early risers but are awake late into the night. Due to such long waking hours, Dolphins have a small window of high focus and productivity. The time to focus on the most challenging tasks is between 10am-12pm, although they can continue to complete lighter tasks between 8am-10am and 12pm-4pm.


Not only are the days long for Dolphins, but the nights are short and full of irregular, restless sleep. They struggle to fall asleep as their mind reflects anxiously on the day that has been and will finally fall asleep when their body is fatigued, not because their mind is relaxed and ready to turn off for the day.


Notable characteristics:

  • Highly intelligent

  • Nervous or anxious tendencies

  • Can be distant or uninterested socially

  • Sleeping 6 hours is a blessing

  • Prefer to exercise as soon as they wake up

  • Need a hot shower/bath to wind down before bed


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Now that you know what chronotype fall into, you might be wondering why it's so important to know?


A blessing in disguise of the pandemic is that it’s shaken up the norms of what a working day looks like. Working from home has become increasingly common, giving the employee more control of their daily flow.


The glorification of burnout (which we've discussed in our blog), sleepless nights and pushing yourself to your limits, is becoming less common as our attitudes toward mindfulness, creating a proper work-life balance, and setting your own boundaries becomes more distinct.


Productivity and efficiency aren’t a one-size-fits-all situation and have become a hot topic of late, especially for those running a small business. If you identified with two chronotypes don't worry, that's pretty common too – there's such a thing as 'early Bears' and 'late Bears', or taking some characteristics of a Dolphin and a Lion.


Truly understanding yourself and what works best for you is the key to your business and life success and through the identification and understanding of your chronotype, that self-awareness only deepens.

With an abundance of sources and information to help you to not only determine your chronotype, we’ve taken down the notes (and done your homework) as to how your day should unfold to harness your most productive self!





Key takeaways (TL;DR):


If you’re a..


LION – Your key to success really comes down to having a good bedtime routine. Take the time for some self-care and to wind-down in the evening. During your workday be sure to get the most challenging tasks done between 8-noon.


BEAR – you are so go with the flow, but try and get the most energy using tasks out of the way by 2, once it hits 4pm you’ll be heading for your winter nap. Sleep is a priority for you, make sure you’re strict with your bedtimes to avoid waking up as a grizzly bear emerging from your long winter sleep.


WOLF – don’t be so hard on yourself to keep up with your fellow chronotypes. Go with the ebbs and flows of your day, your schedule may not fit the norms of what a productive day looks like, but that’s okay- you’re a wolf baby!


DOLPHIN – make sure to have a strong morning routine to get you ready for the day ahead! Fuel yourself at breakfast, wake yourself up with a shower. Some even suggest a light outdoor walk can refresh and energise dolphins.


Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves for hitting that snooze button, for sleeping in, or for having to set multiple alarms.


Stop wearing the sleep deprived bags under your eyes as a badge of honour!

Let’s continue to learn about ourselves, and to be kind to ourselves along the way.



What's your chronotype and who are you trying to be?

[tell us in the comments]


Alexia: "I'm definitely a Wolf trying to be a Lion – I just can't ever get up before 7am for the life of me!"



We recommend taking this quiz to understand your chronotype:

https://thepowerofwhenquiz.com/


Sources:

https://disturbmenot.co/what-is-your-chronotype/

https://casper.com/blog/chronotype/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPNF3vERVro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY51Sfh55mg


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