The Centre for Applied Chronobiology (CAC) researches circadian rhythms – that is, our patterns of sleep-awake rhythms. Everyone is born with an internal biological clock, according to the CAC. Variations of genes called “chronotypes” cause a natural inclination to sleep or be awake at a certain time of day.
Professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Matthew Walker, suggests in his book Why We Sleep that 30% of the population prefers to wake up and go to bed later in the day, and 40% will happily wake up and fall asleep earlier. “Night owls are not owls by choice,” he says. “They are bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hardwiring. It is not their conscious fault, but rather their genetic fate.”
The CAC says that a person who goes to bed early and gets up early is typically called an “A-person”, and one who goes to bed late and gets up late is a “B-person”. However, there is a curve of chronotypes, with around seven different variations within those patterns.
Are you a night owl, early bird, bear or dolphin?
According to the Sleep Foundation, people are largely split into four different types:
- Also called the “wolves”, night owls make up about 15% of the population and, with their late sleep-wake schedule, are most productive in the evenings/at night.
- Early birds, also called “larks” or “lions”, are morning people with an early sleep-wake schedule who focus best before lunchtime. They make up around 15% of the population.
- Over half the population are “bears” – following the solar cycle and not experiencing many problems with the traditional 9–5 schedule. Their ideal focus time is before 2pm, losing steam post-lunch.
- Approximately 10% of us are “dolphins”, those who have problems sleeping. Peak productivity for this group is reportedly late morning.
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