Sleep Chronotype: Are you a Lion, Bear, Wolf, or Dolphin?
Did you know that Canada has developed new 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for Canadians of all ages? These guidelines help to provide recommendations on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. Evidence has demonstrated that making healthy changes in these areas are associated with positive health outcomes and reduced risk for chronic disease. To see the guidelines and learn more, visit https://csepguidelines.ca/.
Sleep is an important aspect of our health as it allows our bodies to restore energy by recharging our physical systems (promoting healing) and brain functions (memory, cognition, creativity, etc.).
There are two main regulatory systems that govern our sleep habits:
- Genetic predisposition (approximately 30%)
- Environmental and lifestyle factors (approximately 70%)
Our focus in this blog post will be to start the conversation on sleep by sharing some foundations on our genetic predispositions. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts on how making changes to our surroundings and lifestyle helps us to sleep better and ultimately feel better rested.
Have you heard people referring to themselves as being “night owls” or “early birds”? Well, this is actually a thing! Chronobiology is the study of how our internal biological rhythms/clocks differ and how we can adapt our lifestyles to these rhythms. Each person has a different rhythm personality type, often referred to as a chronotype. Understanding which sleep chronotype you are can help you to optimize your activities during the day and also improve your sleep habits overall.
Which chronotype are you?
Lion: Lions are ‘early birds’ who often wake up early and are most productive in the mornings. They are more likely to struggle with social events in the evening due to their early mornings. It is thought that lions make up about 15% of the population.
Bear: Bears are another morning type but their energy typically follows the rise and fall of the sun. In most locations of the world this pattern aligns well with the traditional 9-5 office hours. This chronotype covers the majority of the population with about 55%.
Wolf: Wolves are your true ‘night owl’ type who prefer to start and end their day later than most people. Approximately 15% of the population falls into this category.
Dolphin: Dolphins are a group that is similar to lion types but are defined by their anxious sleep tendencies which make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. They will typically self-diagnose themselves with insomnia or anxiety. Dolphins make up the smallest amount of the population with about 10%.
Chronotypes can and do typically change with age. Research has shown older adults and children tend to be morning chronotypes, whereas teenagers and younger adults tend to be evening chronotypes. You can also be classified into the neither category as well, which means your sleep isn’t affected either way.
How Sleep Chronotypes Affect Lifestyle
Understanding your sleep chronotype can help you plan out your daily work schedule in a manner that will increase your productivity.
- For example, if you are a lion it may be best to start your work early and limit the number of late afternoon meetings.
- A wolf on the other hand would likely be most productive with the majority of their intensive work being completed in the afternoons.
- Studies have found that individuals who identify as a wolf or an evening type may be better suited to working night shifts.
Your sleep chronotype can also come into consideration when choosing a time for physical activity (such as going to the gym or doing an exercise class) as most people will prefer to do this during or just around their peak productivity period, when energy levels are the highest.
- A lion might prefer to exercise in the morning before work, a dolphin or bear may prefer a quick lunchtime session and a wolf would do well with an after work run.
Remember that it is still important to incorporate light physical activity throughout the rest of the day to break up sedentary behaviours! Try our 5 Minute Total Body Exercise Routine for a quick mental and physical health boost.
Research Into Sleep Chronotypes
A study by Natale and Di Milia examining chronotypes and birth cycles showed more evening types being born during the spring and summer, and more morning types born during the autumn and winter. They also reported that in several studies that men were more likely to be evening types and women to be morning types.
There are also theories that chronotypes differ with where we live in the world as well (closer to the equator and more sun, or further away from the equator and more fluctuations in daylight). Broadly they have found that those in the east, north and rural areas have a tendency towards morning types with those in the west, south and urban areas more likely to be evening types.
Overall, the working world is much more geared to accommodate morning chronotypes than evening chronotypes and we are continuing to see more studies on the different effects this may have on people and society.
The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research noted that depression and anxiety was more prevalent in evening chronotypes than morning chronotypes. They also found that evening types were associated with increased instances of sleep disturbances and unhealthy lifestyle choices such as addiction and eating disorders.
There have been discussions around the topic of moving school start times later to accommodate the different chronotypes as well as allowing more flexibility with job start times for adults.
Research into sleep genetics is continually ongoing, so it will be interesting to see what new insights we learn over the years to come.
Stay tuned for our upcoming sleep blogs where we will dive into what sleep actually looks like and how our environment and lifestyle can affect it!
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