Everything you need to know about sleep chronotypes
Your personality type can actually reveal a lot about your preferred sleep patterns. Our resident sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo explains everything you need to know about sleep chronotypes.
Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our new editorial series Sleep Well Wednesdays. Check back each week and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.
If there’s one topic that is predicted to be all the rage in 2021 when it comes to sleep, it’s chronotypes. So you’re ahead of the posse, I’m going to give you the low down: what they are, how to know which ‘sleep personality’ you are and more importantly, how you can make yours work for you.
What are sleep chronotypes?
The chronotype refers to your circadian rhythm preferences: your innate disposition to sleep and wake at a particular time.
50 percent of your sleep personality is underpinned by genetics, such as the PER1, 2 and 3 genes and the (aptly named) CLOCK genes, and 50 percent is dictated by endogenous (external) influences, such as blue light, stress, dietary habits and working lifestyle.
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What are the different chronotypes?
Early to rise and early to sleep, these ambitious go-getters are most likely found exercising at the crack of dawn, jumping straight into work shortly after and having an early finish.
Personality-wise, they are natural-born leaders: positive, proactive, diligent, organised, and goal-directed. Similarly, they are high achievers, more punctual and more likely to get better grades, compared to their evening counterparts.
For this reason, lions are often business owners and entrepreneurs; driven by their vision and drive to make it happen.
While this can be a strength, so too can it be a weakness: they can struggle with anxiety and enjoying the here and now.
Lions are 10-15 percent of the population.
Begrudgingly waking around 7am, bears need a few cups of coffee to get going in the morning, however once they do ‘power-up’ around 10am, they can ride the productivity wave until around 3pm – which is later than lions who tend to crash earlier.
Hard working, humble, down to earth and team oriented, bears are the ‘worker-bees’ in society: if there’s a job that needs doing, no matter how big or small, the industrious bear will get it done.
After work, as they are the most balanced in their behaviours, emotions and lifestyles , they’re likely to be found relaxing in some shape or form: socialising, exercising or simply kicking back on the couch.
Bears are 50 percent of the population.
Fun-loving, social and creative, wolves are your typical night owls: rarely seen before 9am (if possible); they are the ones who will happily stay out until 1-2am.
Of all sleep personalities, they are the most open to new experiences, places and people; most thrill-seeking and least risk-averse. Probably known as the ‘life of the party’ – to the extent that Eveningness correlates with work avoidance. – wolves are more likely to drink, smoke and do drugs, leading to a higher rate of addiction for this sleep personality more so than others.
Consequently, wolves are 2.5 times more likely, compared to morning types, to report poor health too. This, in conjunction with their social jet lag (preference to sleep later than what is deemed ‘ideal’), also means they are often sleep-deprived, and suffering daytime fatigue.
Wolves are 10-15 percent of the population.
The classic insomniac with no distinct sleep-wake pattern: some nights, they’ll sleep for 10 hours, others, they won’t sleep at all. Their extremism extends to all facets of their lives: they are all or nothing individuals. Highly intuitive and intelligent, they are the ones who will come up with ingenious ideas out of (seemingly) nowhere.
That said, as they usually suffer chronic sleep deprivation, they are often plagued by anxiety and depression: 40 percent of those with insomnia suffer at least one mental health condition,
Dolphins are 10-20 percent of the population.
How can I know which one I am?
For simplicity’s sake, read the above and see what fits best: are you a leading lion, industrious bear, fun-loving wolf or sleep-deprived dolphin? While we can all identify with each, there should be one that stands out as ‘you’.
How can this help me?
When we know our sleep personalities, we can identify our innate strengths and weaknesses, and leverage them accordingly – for example, we can know how to maximise productivity, and choose a career path. Similarly, this helps us be more accepting of ourselves, and the ones we love.
For example, by knowing our (wolf) partners are genetically predisposed to sleep late, we are less critical when they decline an early morning workout in favour of a late-night the evening prior.
Understanding our chronotype aids our mental health
Specifically, we can be aware of typical challenges faced by our chronotype (more on that to come next SWW), and be wise in avoiding further risk factors.
For example, dolphins can look out for signs of insomnia, such as depression, bipolar disorder and lengthy sleep latency times, and ways to minimise these symptoms.
Similarly, wolves should monitor themselves for delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, typified by sleeping in for more than two hours on weekends vs weekdays, excessive morning fatigue and feeling extremely alert in the evening.
Bears, with poor motivation and depression characteristic for your personality; be aware of a lingering low mood: it may be a sign of something more serious than ‘the blues’.
Finally, lions, be conscious of unrealistic, perfectionistic tendencies and anxiety. They are atypical or you, and unless careful, may develop into more extensive problems without realising.
Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology, Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); Certificate of Fitness III + IV. You can find her online here.