Contrary to popular belief, not all human beings operate optimally at the same time as everyone else. Not all billionaires are early risers and not all lazy people are night owls. We live in a “day” culture. Many wealthy and “successful” people tout waking up before everyone else as part of their success strategy. Google “tips for success,” and you will usually pull up tons of articles about people waking up before everyone else. Often important meetings and events are scheduled in the morning hours. Offices and schools expect you and your kids to be on time and paying attention early in the day. Most businesses are not even open at night.
It turns out that everyone has an ideal time to eat, exercise and work based on their personal Chronotype. A Chronotype is essentially like your own productivity “biological clock.”
Take the Test
First, let’s figure out your own personal Chronotype by taking this test designed by Michael Breus, PhD, author of The Power of When. This is a brief quiz that will send you an email with your personalized results. Your Chronotype is based on several factors, including genetics, environment, age, and sex. These factors are also impacted by your endocrine system and many other things, but this will give you a baseline. We are not always a one size fits all…so don’t get discouraged if you don’t fit perfectly into a category. Use what you need and discard the rest.
Next, we will dive deeper into what this all means. Get ready to unlock your hidden potential!
There are four Chronotypes; Dolphin, Wolf, Bear and Lion. Knowing which Chronotype you identify with can allow you to improve your exercise routine, sleep schedule, nutritional goals, sex life and work at your peak performance times. As Dr. Breus says, “work with your body, not against it.” Find out if you are a “morning, evening or in-between person.” Not only will you be able to improve your overall health and life, you can drastically enhance your mental health and decrease your stress.
There are also “hybrid” Chronotypes; early and late versions of each type, as well as mixed types. Additionally, every Chronotype may suffer sleep problems; these generalizations are the “typical” traits of each Chronotype.
Night Owl Myths Busted:
- Night owls tend to make more money than early risers according to this 1998 study.
- Another study found that night owls were actually more intelligent, even when they were tested in the morning.
- Some studies have shown that night owls tend to have happier sex lives (possibly because they are night owls and night is associated oftentimes with intimacy) and can consume caffeine without having disrupted sleep.
- Many of the issues night owls experience (like higher rates of substance abuse and mental health issues) oftentimes can be traced back to the societal norms they are forced to live within (sometimes called chronic social jet lag).
I am a Dolphin
- Light Sleeper
- Highest Productivity Mid-Morning to Afternoon
- Most Pleasant Around 4 p.m.
- 10% of the Population
- Famous Dolphins – William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens (erratic sleep and wake cycles)
Dolphin Chronotypes typically wake feeling sleepy. You may have a hard time napping and feel tired throughout the day, with a small productive window. Overall Dolphins have a hard time following a set sleep schedule. Noise and light significantly impacts the quality of your sleep more than others. Your optimal time to be productive is around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dolphins tend to be perfectionists and are very intelligent. Dolphins may be prone to anxiety and mental illness.
I am a Bear
- Most Energetic During the Day
- Highest Productivity Mid-Morning
- Most Pleasant Around 6 p.m.
- 50% of the Population
- Famous Bears – Stephen King (wakes before 8 a.m.) and Jeff Bezos (wakes naturally, read more about his fixed routine here)
Bear Chronotypes typically rest and wake with the sun cycles naturally. You most likely fall asleep and wake easily. Peak productivity times seems to be best before noon, and you might be afflicted by the “post-lunch” lull between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Some Bears might also be part of “hybrid” Chronotype. Bears tend to share characteristics with other chronotypes. Bears are usually very friendly people and outstanding leaders.
I am a Wolf
- Usually “Night Owls”
- Most Productive During Evening and Nighttime Hours
- Most Pleasant Around 8 p.m.
- 15-20% of the Population
- Famous Wolves – Elon Musk (up at 7 a.m., which is technically much later than his counterparts, he typically goes to bed around 1 a.m.) and Buzzfeed CEO/Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti (wakes around 8:30 a.m.)
Wolf Chronotypes usually have difficulty waking up in the morning. You will feel more energetic in general if you wake up around noon. Your optimal productivity time also starts around noon and ends about 4 hours later. You may get another boost of energy around 6 p.m. and will usually get more done when most people are ready to go to bed. Wolves tend to be very creative and enjoy alone time more than others.
In an article by Melanie Curtin at Inc. she writes, “some of history’s most famous leaders and creatives did their best work at night. Kafka sat down to write at 10:30 or 11:00pm and worked until 1, 2, or 3am. Other well-known night owls include Winston Churchill, Fran Lebowitz, Bob Dylan, Carl Jung, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Travolta, Prince, Christina Aguilera, and, believe it or not, Barack Obama.”
I am a Lion
- Usually “Early Birds”
- Most Productive Early Morning Until Noon
- Most Pleasant Around 2 p.m.
- 15-20% of the Population
- Famous Lions – Richard Branson (wakes around 5:45 a.m.) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (wakes prior to 4 a.m.)
Lion Chronotypes thrive on waking up early. You will feel best before noon. It is estimated that about 80% of their tasks will be completed before most people wake up. Many Lions are productive early in the morning and fizzle out around noon. Most Lions want to go to sleep around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. Lions tend to be the “go-getters” and the “type-A” people.
According to an article written by Andrew Merle at the Huffington Post, “some studies have shown that 90% of executives wake up before 6am on weekdays, and nearly 50% of self-made millionaires wake up at least three hours before their workday actually begins.”
Our daily circadian rhythms directly influence how we think, feel, and our energy levels. Try creating a schedule around your Chronotype in baby steps and see what works for you.
Personally, I am a Wolf and I work nights, so this “optimal” schedule is tweaked to fit my own needs. For instance; I “try” wake up between Noon and 2 p.m. (depending on if I have to go to work). I usually eat within an hour of waking up on my days off. On work nights, I eat on my way to work or at work between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
I have yet to create an optimal work out time/routine…but it’s getting there. My goal is to work out between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. I follow my typical task and lunch schedule at work, so I don’t have a lot of leeway (being a nurse). Luckily, I am home 3-4 days a week and can keep a pretty consistent schedule at home. My most productive time, whether I’m at work or home, is during 6 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Instituting a routine around my Chronotype has been a work in progress, but just getting on a more consistent sleep schedule has done wonders for my overall well-being. I’m hoping to really hone in on my personal “time to shine.”
For years I felt shame because I could not be as productive during the day as everyone else. My whole life I thought that “only way to be successful was to wake up early.” This Foundr article made me realize that was a huge misconception.
This post is designed to be informational. If you want to explore how you are directly impacted by your Chronotype I suggest reading Dr. Breus’ book. He provides tips and suggestions on how to implement these new routines.
If there are newer studies or revised facts, please feel free to contact me. I want to make sure that I am always providing the most up to date information.