You’ve probably got yourself pegged as a lark or an owl, but what if we told you that, actually, chances are you’re a bear? Psychologist Michael Breus, known as ‘The Sleep Doctor’ believes that, not only are there four ‘chronotypes’ but that “they deserve new names, because humans are mammals, not birds”. In his new book, The Power of When, Breus teaches us how to work with our own body clock to enhance our lives. And apparently it’s all a question of timing…
According to the Sleep Doctor, modern working practices, artificial lighting and a “24/7 smartphone culture of perpetual dusk” have put most of our circadian pacemakers (or body clocks) into a state of chronic “chrono-misalignment”, which could, in turn, be one of the primary causes of many of the so-called diseases of civilisation, from depression to diabetes, heart disease to cancer. But fear not. Something as simple as changing the timing of your daily caffeine fix could be enough to “nudge the rhythm of your entire day back in sync with the rhythm of your biology”. First things first, though, you need to figure out your chronotype – or spirit animal, if you will…
You could be a Bear if…
It takes you a couple of hours to feel fully awake
You are most alert from mid-morning to early afternoon
You start to feel tired again mid-evening
You are friendly, down-to-earth and open minded
You always seem to be hungry
You are probably a Lion if…
You wake up bursting with energy
You begin to feel tired at the end of the afternoon
You struggle to wake up before noon, but stay alert into the early hours
You are creative, emotional and impulsive
You are constantly seeking out new experiences
You tend to be pessimistic
You feel most hungry in the evenings
You could be a Dolphin if…
You feel tired all day, but hit your stride late in the evening
You experience ‘spurts’ of productivity during the day
You tend to lie awake worrying about mistakes you have made or things you have said
You wake up multiple times during the night
You prefer working alone
Whilst few of us are fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose our working hours, if we know our type, we may still be able to use it to our advantage.
Ponder your most important decisions after dinner, when most of us are at our most rational (excluding lions, who are most alert between 6am and 11am).
Tricky conversation to have? Breus suggests taking advantage of your ‘patience peak’. This is during the morning for lions, mid-afternoon for bears, after dinner for dolphins and during the evening for wolves.
Crucially, don’t forget to consider the influence of others’ types, too. Is trying to talk to your teenager akin to squeezing blood from a stone? Try them at 10pm. Until we settle into our adult chronotype, we tend to follow a universal pattern: starting out as a baby wolf, before morphing into a toddling lion, school-age bear and, finally, the dreaded adolescent lupine.
So when is the ideal time for that morning coffee? According to Breus, it’s NOT first thing. Instead, you should wait until your alertness levels begin to dip – for bears (that’s 50% of us), this is between 9.30am and 11.30am, followed by a secondary dip from 1.30pm to 5.30pm.