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Your Sleep Chronotype and How it Affects Productivity

Are you an early riser or do you like to sleep in and get started later in the day?

Whether you're a morning person, a night person (or somewhere in between) is determined by your chronotype. Your chronotype is your genetically programmed preference for sleeping and waking up within a 24-hour period. A University of Surrey study suggests there are at least three chronotypes that are identifiable through our expressed genes: delayed, normal, and early.

Chronotypes are linked to the PER3 gene of our circadian clock. Night owls possess shorter PER3 genes, while early birds have lengthier ones. The length of your PER3 gene also dictates how much sleep you need.

Interestingly enough, there are four identified types of chronotype "animals" that a person can fall under, and none of them are birds or owls:

  1. Dolphins: typically wake from sleep unrested, struggle with napping, and are often tired throughout the day, with a spurt of energy in the evening.(only ~10 % of the population fall under this chronotype).

  2. Wolves: wake up later and go to sleep later than others. Their day really only starts to get going in the afternoon, often with the productive working beginning during the evening.(15-20% of the population fall under this chronotype).

  3. Lions: wake up early with plenty of energy, and are the most productive in the morning. They are often organized leaders.(15-20% of people fall under this chronotype)

  4. Bears: naturally sleep and wake in connection to the sun. They feel most energetic during daytime, with a peak mid-morning and a dip later in the afternoon. They experience little trouble falling asleep at night, but may take longer to get going in the morning.(50% of the population fall under this chronotype).

I'll admit, I've always envied those who can wake up for a jog at five in the morning, before work - There’s a distinct advantage to being a lion! Because of how our society is set up, lions tend to get better sleep, and by extension, be healthier and less prone to conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

But before most of us judge ourselves for not being lions, please know that according to research, there can be some great traits that accompany other sleep styles, such as good attention to detail, creativity and great people skills. Still, some people might want to change their chronotype to another rhythm, unfortunately science rules (being that you can’t change your underlying biological chronotype). However, over time, our bodies undergo many changes, and many people find themselves beginning to rise earlier as they get older.

We can’t speed up our chronotype, and I don't suggest you try, unless you are really committed to getting more sleep. Attempting to alter your chronotype puts you at risk for self-inflicting social jet lag and sending your sleep rhythm into a tailspin. You will endure a harder time falling asleep or staying awake during the day, and you’ll also experience more sleep disturbances.

That being voiced, technically, we can adjust our chronotype. Studies indicate that seasons, latitude, and light exposure may have an affect one's chronotype.

I recommend first assessing your DNA-determined chronotype and perhaps finding a way to embrace that natural rhythm. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Adjusting your work schedule, if possible

  • Finding flexible, remote work

  • Prior planning for your most optimum productivity

  • A light therapy lamp

  • Intentionally setting a consistent schedule

As far as melatonin goes... Make it, don't fake it.

... (unless you have a chronic sleep issue)*.

More on that another time.

ADHD'ers most often lean towards the dolphin-type chronotype. To make life management easier, I often spend time working with my clients to determine their chronotype and develop an individualized schedule for them that supports it. I do this together, with my client, so we can carefully determine what is best for them without any assumptions on my end. Following the next week, clients receive a detailed report on their chronotype including sleep patterns, health education, and suggestions.

The science behind chronotypes may be confusing or sound complex. Reach out if you are interested in health coaching from one of our experts, or if you are interested in developing an individualized chronotype schedule of your own.

While many of us might not be early to bed and early to rise, we can still be healthy, wealthy, and wise!

With warmth,

- Allison


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