You’ve probably heard of the ‘spirit animal’ – a teacher or messenger in Native American culture that chooses the person it creates a bond with and provides guidance.
But did you know that there are specific animal chronotypes based on how you sleep and how you design your sleep schedule?
Biological clocks differ from person to person, and knowing your sleep behaviour allows you to plan out your sleep schedule and manoeuvre around your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
In the book The Power of When? Dr Michael Breus takes a deeper dive into the body’s circadian rhythm to determine the morning person from the night owl.
The book delves into each of the four chronotypesand how they affect our energy levels in the day and in our peak hours of focus.
Want to know if you’ll embody the wolf or bear tonight?
Read on to discover which of the four sleep chronotypes best matches your natural tendencies at night and in your hours of peak productivity.
Making up 55 per cent of the population, bears are the most common chronotype observed in people. Like real bears, their sleep pattern is based on the sun rising and setting: a habit that comes naturally to humans.
Another characteristic of the bear chronotype is that they’re easily awoken when alerted or prompted, but at the same time, they can settle back into a good night’s sleep at the drop of a hat.
Energy levels of the bear chronotype begin high during the morning and gradually decrease towards the end of the day.
Bears don’t fall into the category of early risers, nor do they fall under the night owl umbrella. Although bear chronotypes don’t sleep too early, they can easily get eight hours of sleep in a day.
If you fit into this chronotype, make sure you use your peak hours of productivity wisely, especially since these coincide with regular work hours.
Those with the bear chronotype aren’t the most prominent morning people either. They might need to warm up a bit in the morning (preferably with a caffeinated beverage of some sort). Or snooze just a few minutes more before leaping into their most productive mode. So, if you want to wake up a bear, maybe do it sometime in the mid-morning (or maybe let them sleep until lunchtime).
On the other hand, bears who don’t get enough sleep have a hard time being productive during the day, and energy levels will easily be affected by not having completed their entire sleep-wake cycle.
Owls are often cited as the animal symbolic of late-night sleepers. But, in the chronotype method, Dr Breus refers to them as wolves.
Just like wolves in the wild, those who fit into the wolf chronotype find that they’re most productive during the nighttime, and with that in mind, wolf chronotypes rarely get to bed early.
Wolves are a rare breed compared to bears, as they make up only 15 per cent of the population.
Evening types like wolves consider themselves nocturnal as their energy peaks when the sun goes down and when everyone else is resting, which may not be best for those working a solid 9 to 5. (Though this might be an ideal time for creatives.)
But, when there’s an opportunity for a wolf to work during their peak hours of productivity, expect that they will go ALL OUT as this is their comfort zone. All-nighters, it’s your time to shine!
Waking up early in the morning isn’t the strongest suit of the wolf chronotype as most wolves are deep sleepers. If you’re a wolf, allow yourself to sleep through mornings when you can, as this promotes better sleep quality and can boost your productivity during your peak hours.
This chronotype is the quintessential morning type; their body clock allows them to be early risers with enormous bouts of energy as soon as they wake up.
Their daily schedule might include meetings first thing in the morning and avoiding tedious tasks in the early afternoon.
Just like the wolf chronotype, lions comprise only 15 per cent of people.
Being early risers, lions like to get the job done and dusted early to maximise their peak productivity. They live up to the saying that ‘the early bird (or lion) catches the worm.’
Note that mornings are the only peak time of day for lions, as their energies will dwindle in the late afternoon, leaving them in serious need of an afternoon nap to refresh and recharge.
Like bears, lion chronotypes need to be particular about the hours of sleep they get, as a sleep deficit may affect their ability to carry on with their daily routine.
Dolphins are often seen as insomniacs, being late-night sleepers — even later than the wolf chronotype.
But, unlike wolves, the sleep habits of those with the dolphin chronotype involve rising early and commonly sleeping for less than the recommended eight hours a day.
A Dolphin views sleep as more of a biological necessity. Most dolphins fall asleep only when their body literally forces them to shut down, so they might find it challenging to get some shut-eye voluntarily.
The dolphin chronotype is the rarest animal type, as dolphins comprise only 10 per cent of the population.
Dolphin chronotypes aren’t the best at hitting the hay, as they are primarily light sleepers and are easily disturbed by noise, movement and temperature changes, often waking up in the middle of the night.
The upside to being a dolphin is that their peak hours of productivity span from the late morning to the early afternoon, which can be taken advantage of by those that have a regular workday.
It’s a Jungle Out There!
Now that you’re acquainted with chronobiology, you’ll be well-equipped with information on your internal clock and also how to circumvent your sleep patterns. 🦁 🌴
Identifying your sleep and wake cycles allows you to plan out your bedtime and set wake times that leave you feeling refreshed in the morning (or whenever it is you wake up if you’re a night-dolphin).
While sleep chronotypes aren’t the only method for improving sleep, they’re still a fun exercise to help you understand your sleep patterns. Which animal are you?