Apparently, I’m a dolphin.
Not a cool dolphin like Flipper, but that’s my sleep chronotype.
Confused? I was too.
There are four chronotypes — you’re either a lion, a bear, a wolf, or a dolphin, and it’s based on your internal clock.
How did I find out? There are free quizzes you can take online to figure out your chronotype — I chose this one by Dr. Michael Breus.
Full disclosure: If you take the quiz above, Dr. Breus will email you A LOT wanting to discuss why you’re a dolphin, a lion, a bear, or a wolf.
If the idea of an overflowing inbox doesn’t pique your interest (yeah, ours either), take our quiz, and keep reading to learn about what the sleep chronotypes are and how knowing yours can help you actually live your best life.
What Is Chronotype?
Chronotype is the organic predisposition of your body to sleep at a certain time (your internal clock) and it plays into determining whether you’re an early bird or a night owl.
Not only does your chronotype balance your sleep and wake times, but it can sway your appetite, mood, and body temperature.
It’s a no-brainer that it affects why you’re sleepy or alert during parts of the day.
According to the National Library of Medicine, “An individual’s chronotype reflects how the circadian system embeds itself into the 24-hour day with rhythms in physiology, cognition and behavior occurring accordingly earlier or later.”
What Are the Different Chronotypes?
Scientists describe two chronotypes: Eveningness and morningness, otherwise known as night owls and early birds.
It’s useful to know your chronotype, so you can adjust your schedule accordingly in order to be well-rested.
For research purposes, scientists have developed questionnaires that classify subjects by morning versus evening proclivities.
The questionnaires view chronotypes from a different perspective, with the MCTQ focusing on actual wake and sleep times and the MEQ asks about a range of daily activities such as meal and exercise times.
The difference in questions is a reason why researchers have found it hard to make precise conclusions about the particular traits associated with each chronotype.
What Is My Chronotype?
To figure out your chronotype, think about what time you would prefer to wake up on a day that you are completely free to plan, with no work or other requirements.
You probably already know whether you prefer waking up early or late.
Many websites offer online quizzes that categorize your chronotype based on questions about your sleeping preferences, energy levels throughout the day, meal timing, and other factors that play into your circadian rhythm.
One of the most popular online quizzes was made by Dr. Michael Breus (the one I took), who describes four kinds of chronotypes, based on sleep-wake patterns seen in animals.
Answering his online chronotype quiz will tell you whether you are more of a bear, wolf, lion, or dolphin.
The Sleep Chronotypes
Much like its namesake, the bear chronotype follows the solar cycle and usually doesn’t have much trouble waking up in the morning or falling asleep at night.
This chronotype is most productive in the morning, and will typically struggle with an afternoon slump after lunch, generally around 2-4 p.m.
Eight hours of sleep is typical for a bear, and normal sleep hours are usually between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The best schedule for bear chronotypes looks something like:
7-8 a.m.: Wake up
10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Focus on hard work
2-4 p.m.: Work on lighter tasks
4-10 p.m.: Relax and unwind
10-11 p.m.: Get ready for bed
11 p.m.-7 a.m.: Sleep
55% of the population falls into this category. If bear types fail to get enough sleep at night, they may feel lethargic throughout the day and go to bed earlier than normal.
Typically, bear chronotypes are extroverts and can maintain energy throughout conversations.
If you’re a bear, make sure you get enough sleep to sustain your energy levels — you don’t get to hibernate all winter.
Like their real-life counterparts, wolf chronotypes are most productive at night.
The wolf has a hard time waking up in the morning and will hit snooze to get the energy they need to sustain their two bursts of creative energy.
The first hits around noon, with the second burst arriving around 6 p.m. Similar to what is considered a “night owl,” this chronotype doesn’t get going until it’s dark out.
Wolves are often happy to go to bed at midnight, or well past it, to help fuel their creativity.
The best schedule for a wolf is:
7:30-9 a.m.: Wake up
10 a.m.-12 p.m.: Focus on lighter tasks
12-2 p.m.: Complete hard or creative work
2-5 p.m.: Focus on lighter, less intense tasks
5-9 p.m.: Engage in creative tasks
9-10 p.m.: Unwind from the day
10 p.m.-12 a.m.: Prepare for bed
12-7:30 a.m.: Sleep
About 15% of the population identify as wolves and are usually more reserved and introverted.
The lion chronotype is an early bird and gets the worm.
This chronotype feels most energetic in the morning with energy levels peaking before noon, and is typically able to complete large amounts of work before lunch.
Waking up early is easy for lions and everything tends to run smoothly until lunchtime, after which their energy dramatically dips.
They may need a nap in the afternoon, but it doesn’t recharge their energy and by the evening they’re spent.
Lions will call it a night by 10 p.m. and need eight hours of quality sleep to keep up their energy levels in the early morning.
The best daily schedule for a lion looks like this:
6-7 a.m.: Wake up
8 a.m.-12 p.m.: Focus on hard work
12-4 p.m.: Focus on lighter tasks
4-9 p.m.: Daily unwind and relax
9-10 p.m.: Get ready for bed
10 p.m.-6 a.m.: Sleep
15% of the population considers themselves lions. They exercise in the early hours and are first into work.
Usually type-A people, lion chronotypes have charisma and are seen as leaders by others.
The dolphin chronotype is an insomniac, much like its water counterpart — dolphins sleep with half their brain at a time.
Being half awake enables them to stay alert and aware of predators, and they have a hard time waking up in the morning.
Once they eventually get going, their productivity reaches its height around mid-morning.
Like their nocturnal counterpart, there is always underlying tiredness for dolphins due to their anxious sleeping behaviors — including having a hard time falling asleep each night and rarely getting a full night of sleep.
Dolphin chronotypes will usually fall asleep because their body needs to, not because they willingly give in to sleep. Because of their sporadic sleeping habits, it’s recommended they sleep from about midnight to 6 a.m.
If you fall into the dolphin category, your ideal schedule looks like:
6:30-7:30 a.m.: Wake up
8-10 a.m.: Engage with easy tasks
10 a.m.-12 p.m.: Focus on more demanding tasks
12-4 p.m.: Complete less demanding tasks
4-10 p.m.: Relax, unwind from the day
10-11:30 p.m.: Prepare for bed
12-6:30 a.m.: Sleep
About 10% of the population are considered dolphins.
Generally highly intelligent, dolphin types will obsess about the day’s successes and failures while in bed.
This chronotype can be seen as distant and uninterested during social interactions.
What Your Sleep Chronotype Means
Animal chronotype categorization can be a helpful guide to your sleeping patterns, but deep down you know what works for you.
Whether you’re a wolf or a bear, having a better grasp of how your brain is wired could lead to an improvement in your sleepy time.
You can change up your schedule and see if it helps — it definitely can’t hurt!
For the record, I wanted to be a wolf and not the “obsess over the day” dolphin — but I am most def the dolphin.
Except for waking up at 6:30-7:30 a.m., because then I am a hit-snooze-10-times wolf.
Do you know what sleep chronotype category you fall into? If not, take the quiz and let us know in the comments!
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