Most people assume that their sleep habits relegate them to either being labeled a night owl if they stay up late or an early bird who turns in early and wakes up refreshed. But a new theory by Dr. Michael J. Breus posits that there are actually four, not two, basic sleep personalities.
Breus is a clinical psychologist that specializes in sleep disorders. His book "The Power of When" describes how understanding your unique sleep type – or animal – can help you to take advantage of your natural circadian rhythm to enhance your schedule and your health.
Forget the night owl and the early bird. According to Breus, there are four basic sleep animals or chronotypes: Lion, Bear, Wolf, and Dolphin. Which one are you?
Lions are naturally very early risers who feel best in the morning and are prone to a mid-afternoon slump. Lion chronotypes are usually optimistic and driven. You probably like planning your day out in the morning and organizing your tasks on a to-do list. You get a lot done in a day – but by early evening, you’re often wiped out. Lions need at least seven hours of sleep.
- Energy Tip: Lions often exercise in the morning because they’re bursting with energy and awake, unlike most other chronotypes. But by shifting your workout to the early evening hours (around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.) you can give yourself a burst of energy for the next few hours before bed. Going out for the night? Help yourself stay alert by skipping carbs at dinner in favor of proteins.
Bears need a full eight hours of sleep and focus best between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon. It takes bears a little longer to get going in the morning (hello, snooze button) and to fully wake up. But they enjoy sustained energy during the middle hours of the day with peak mood in the early afternoon, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Your energy rises and falls with the sun – and you’re probably a friendly, sociable person.
- Energy Tip: Bears like to start their work day on the social tip, chatting with co-workers and surfing social media. But it’s a better fit for you to tackle important projects first when your focus is high. Save socializing for later in the day when your mood is peaking. Skip carbs in favor of protein for breakfast to help get you going a little faster.
Ever notice how your dog sleeps all day? Wolves wake up groggy and feel most energized around the end of the work day, about 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. While other animals are winding down, you’re newly alert and enjoying your first real burst of energy for the day. Still wired into the late evening hours, you often stay up late – and you actually need less sleep than lions or bears. Often impulsive and moody, this creative sleep animal is a classic artist – and the archetype of the night owl.
- Energy Tip: Many wolves still have to get up early to work. Ask your boss to shift your schedule later if at all possible. If not, take a morning walk outside to shake off the grogginess. At night, skip mindless time-wasters like social media scrolling and TV shows in favor of relaxing endeavors. Stretch, meditate, or read.
Dolphins are light sleepers who are often up late (and early) due to insomnia. You are probably highly intelligent and may also be slightly controlling and/or obsessive/compulsive. You never get as much done as you want to. Most alert late at night, dolphins are perfectionists who may stay up late to put the finishing touches on an important project – or to ruminate about the day’s mistakes.
- Energy Tip: Morning and bedtime rituals are important to keep yourself on an even keel. Exercise first thing in the morning, no matter how much you slept the night before. Don’t go to bed too early; most dolphins will sleep best if they get in bed at 11:30 p.m. Get the TV out of your bedroom and do something productive with your late evening hours instead.
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