Looking for ways to improve the sleep scores or just save some time? Check out when to go to bed and discover secrets of choronotypes!
An individual’s chronotype, whether characterized as a morning lark or a night owl, can significantly impact their sleep quality. This natural variation in sleep-wake patterns can pose challenges when aligning personal schedules with external demands, such as work or school obligations.
Chronotype is closely linked to the circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle that regulates various bodily functions, including sleep-wake patterns. This inherent inclination to sleep or wake up at particular times is known as chronotype, circadian preference, or circadian typology.
Chronotype is distinct from sleep duration, which refers to the total number of hours of sleep an individual typically gets per night. However, chronotype may influence sleep duration—a morning person, for instance, may find it easier to obtain sufficient sleep when their natural wake-up time aligns with their work schedule compared to a night owl.
Studies have demonstrated that chronotype undergoes changes throughout the lifespan.
Kindergarten children tend to wake up early, while adolescents favor a later sleep-wake schedule that progresses throughout their teenage years, reaching its peak around the age of 19. This tendency then shifts back towards an earlier wake-up time in adulthood. Men generally exhibit later chronotypes than women before the age of 40, but after this age, the reverse is observed.
Chronotypes are classified into three main categories
Individuals with a morning chronotype naturally wake up and go to bed earlier than most people. They tend to feel most alert and energized early in the day and experience a decline in energy later in the evening.
Individuals with an evening chronotype naturally wake up and go to bed later than most people. They often feel more alert and energized in the evening and may experience difficulty falling asleep early.
Individuals with an intermediate chronotype fall somewhere between morningness and eveningness. Their sleep-wake patterns tend to be more flexible and adaptable to different schedules.
While morningness and eveningness are the most commonly recognized chronotypes, some studies suggest the existence of a fourth category:
Individuals with a bimodal chronotype exhibit characteristics of both morningness and eveningness. They may experience periods of early-morning alertness followed by late-night surges of energy.
Understanding one’s chronotype is crucial for optimizing sleep quality and aligning personal schedules with natural sleep-wake preferences. By tailoring their sleep habits to their chronotype, individuals can enhance their overall well-being and performance.
One widely recognized method for identifying chronotype is the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) (pdf), a validated assessment tool used by researchers to categorize individuals into three main chronotypes.
While the MEQ is the gold standard for chronotype assessment, another popular method is the chronotype quiz developed by clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus. This quiz categorizes individuals into four animal types:
This type roughly corresponds to morning types, characterized by early rising and peak energy in the morning hours.
This type roughly corresponds to evening types, demonstrating a preference for later sleep and greater energy in the evening.
This type roughly correlates to intermediate types, with peak energy levels before noon and a decrease in energy in the late afternoon.
This type roughly corresponds to bimodal types, exhibiting periods of early-morning alertness followed by late-night energy surges.
Despite its popularity, Breus’ quiz lacks scientific validation or peer-review, making its accuracy uncertain. Therefore, the MEQ remains the recommended method for accurate chronotype identification.
Why do we have chronotypes?
The variations in chronotype between individuals may stem from evolutionary adaptations. A 2017 study conducted on a hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania revealed that individuals took turns sleeping while others remained awake over a 20-day period.
This asynchronous sleep-wake pattern was linked to variations in chronotype. The researchers proposed that these differences in chronotype emerged through natural selection, ensuring that some individuals stayed awake throughout the night to safeguard the group from predators and other dangers during sleep.
This evolutionary perspective suggests that chronotype diversity played a crucial role in promoting group survival and ensuring adequate vigilance against potential threats.
What to do with chronotypes?
Chronotype, our natural inclination to sleep and wake up at certain times of day, plays a significant role in determining our sleep quality and overall well-being. Individuals with an evening chronotype, characterized by a preference for later sleep and wake times, often experience challenges in aligning their sleep patterns with societal norms, such as work and school schedules.
A mismatch between chronotype and external demands can lead to several sleep-related issues, including:
- Insufficient sleep
Evening types tend to get less sleep than morning types, increasing their risk of fatigue, irritability, and impaired cognitive function.
- Sleep disturbances
Evening types may experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night, leading to fragmented sleep and decreased sleep quality.
- Social jetlag
The frequent shifts between weekday and weekend sleep schedules, often observed in evening types, can disrupt their circadian rhythm and contribute to chronic sleep deprivation.
These sleep-related issues can have far-reaching consequences for evening types. Chronic sleep deficiency can increase the risk of
- Cardiovascular disease
- Mental health problems
- Impair cognitive function
- Difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making.
In contrast, morning types generally have an easier time adapting to early schedules, often experiencing better sleep quality and less daytime fatigue. However, morning types may find it challenging to stay up late for social activities or late-night work commitments.
While chronotype is generally stable throughout adulthood, individuals may experience shifts in sleep preferences during adolescence. This is due to the natural changes in circadian rhythm that occur during puberty. Adolescents with an evening chronotype may experience particularly severe sleep disruptions due to the mismatch between their natural sleep-wake pattern and the early school start times typically imposed.
Understanding chronotype is crucial for optimizing sleep habits and promoting overall health. By aligning personal schedules with natural sleep-wake preferences, individuals can improve sleep quality, enhance cognitive function, and reduce the risk of chronic health problems.
- Chronotypes make night owls and morning larks.
- Chronotypes can’t be changed at will but they shift during our life various times.
- Determine our chronotype helps us live a more balanced and productive life.