If you have arrhythmia, see a cardiologist. For eczema, a dermatologist can help. Bad hay fever? Call an allergist. Trouble sleeping? Considering how many people struggle with sleep quality, it’s surprising that doctors specializing in sleep patterns aren’t as ubiquitous as primary care physicians. But there’s one doctor—a clinical psychologist—that’s widely credited for helping people optimize their sleeping habits, and you don’t need to make an appointment with him. Instead, you can take a questionnaire called “The Sleep Chronotype Quiz” to learn how to best get some much-needed regenerative sleep.
Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., is known as “the Sleep Doctor.” One of the only non-medical doctors to pass the Sleep Medicine Specialty Board, Dr. Breus is a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He is credited with inventing an online sleep tool that identifies sleeping patterns, or chronotypes.
What Are “Chronotypes”?
Dr. Breus’ four chronotypes help people optimize their individual sleep tendencies. Beyond being able to differentiate between being a night owl and an early bird, however, each of the four chronotypes reveals different appetite patterns, as well as exercise and metabolic tendencies.
Many people believe that in order to be healthy and productive, it’s necessary to follow the maxim attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
But if you’re not a morning person, there’s no need to change your sleep pattern. Sleep scientists theorize that evolution has created both night owls and early birds. The reason why our distant ancestors felt most active in the morning is easy enough to understand: to hunt. But why were some prehistoric people night owls even though they were in the same clan as early birds? Perhaps to safeguard the cave or other primordial dwelling from apex predators or hostile clans.
Since the dawn of humanity, then, some people are genetically wired to perform at optimal levels at certain times of the day that may be different from others. The four chronotypes were devised by Dr. Breus to help people function at their optimal level, in accordance with their individual biological clock.
It’s important to note that “chronotype” is not synonymous with circadian rhythm. The former unlocks genetic differences in sleep patterns whereas the latter is influenced by both internal and external factors, mainly how the sleep hormone, melatonin, is influenced by light and dark.
The 4 Chronotypes
Dr. Breus’s online questionnaire identifies four different animal sleep archetypes (chronotypes; ‘chrono’ in Greek means “time”):
This type indicates sleep patterns associated with insomnia. What does a dolphin have to do with insomnia? These fun-loving marine mammals are natural insomniacs. Amazingly, they can leap out of the water, surf waves, and hunt considering they sleep while half their brain is constantly active so as to help them evade apex predators. If dolphins were humans, they would likely be coffee drinkers because collectively, they’re not energetic first thing in the morning. But once mid-morning arrives, dolphins frolic at their peak.
If it takes you a couple of hours or so to feel alive in the morning, consider the dolphin your spirit animal. Or at least your sleep chronotype animal.
Most people fall into this category. Many dolphin types are probably envious of bears. That’s because, unlike dolphins, bears are the best sleepers, achieving a deep slumber quickly and usually staying that way, waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Although bear chronotypes have no problem getting out of bed and being productive early in the morning (or whenever the sun rises), they tend to have an energy crash in the early afternoon.
Like bears, Lion chronotypes do best waking up early in the morning. They tend to get most of their work done before noon. Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, early to rise…” motto best suits the Lion.
The antithesis of an early bird, the wolf chronotype feels worthless early in the morning and can’t wake up, repeatedly hitting the snooze button. Productivity and energy levels don’t peak until the afternoon or even well into the evening. You’re an entrepreneur who doesn’t mind burning the midnight oil!
Know When To Work, Work Out, Eat & Have Sex
In addition to identifying optimal sleep patterns, the four animals of the Sleep Chronotype Quiz dictate ideal times of the day to eat, what to eat, when to exercise and what type, and the ideal time of day to engage in sexual activity.
If you wish you were another chronotype, say a bear instead of a dolphin, the good news is that over the years, your chronotype can change. Moreover, just as you can fit the description of more than one dosha (pattern) in Ayurveda, you can also have more than one chronotype pattern.
Regardless of your chronotype, there are sleep hacks and natural supplements that may help improve your sleep quality.
An Innovative Medicine practitioner will create a personalized, holistic sleep treatment plan for you, in part by using the Sleep Chronotype Quiz. The ideal sleep schedule for one person may be different for you. You may find that you don’t need the recommended eight hours of sleep. Or perhaps you need more. With Innovative Medicine, we’ll help you achieve better sleep and fine-tune your daily schedule.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.
At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.
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