Being a Morning Person Isn’t the Key to Productivity. This Is
- There’s a pervasive belief that morning people are superior and that if you wake up late and stay up late, you’re flawed.
- The truth is, night people are just as productive as morning people — they simply run on different schedules.
- If you’ve ever felt lazy or unmotivated because your day starts and runs a little later than your peers’, read on to find out how small schedule tweaks will let you reclaim your day.
There’s a pervasive belief that morning people are superior and that if you wake up late and stay up late, you’re flawed. The truth is, night people are just as productive as morning people — they simply run on different schedules.
According to sleep expert and The Power of When author Dr. Michael Breus, your unique wiring (aka sleep chronotype) determines your most energetic times of day. While you likely already know whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, Breus takes circadian rhythms one step further with four classifications called sleep chronotypes, which will help you figure out the best time of day to make an important decision, work out, and do anything better.
Can you shift your sleep-wake times for your own convenience? Yes, but you might not perform as well as you would if you worked with your body’s natural tendency. “I always tell people you can’t mess with mother nature. This is genetically pre-determined. This isn’t something that you just have a preference for. Its actually the PER3 gene that determines your sleep drive, and then your circadian rhythms are genetically predetermined,” explains Breus.
So, if you’ve ever felt lazy or unmotivated because your day starts and runs a little later than your peers’, read on to discover your sleep chronotype and how small schedule tweaks will let you reclaim your day.
Circadian rhythm vs sleep chronotype
Your circadian rhythm — your brain’s sleep-wake cycle — determines when you’re alert and when you’re sleepy over a 24-hour period. It’s the internal clock that your brain uses to signal when to release certain hormones.
Based on morning and evening preferences, he identified four different chronotypes, or circadian rhythm personalities, and then associated each one with an animal whose sleep-wake habits best mirrored them.
When Breus switched up his patients’ daily routines to accommodate their sleep chronotype, their productivity soared and sleep issues resolved.
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Which sleep chronotype describes you?
Most people fall into the bear chronotype category. Bears’ sleep-wake patterns follow the sun, and they have no difficulty sleeping. Bears are most ready for intense tasks smack in the middle of the morning, and they feel a dip in the mid-afternoon.
Overall, bears have steady energy and get things done. They can maintain productivity all day as long as they don’t try to push past the mid-afternoon recharge period. Bears tend to be friendly people-people.
Lions wake up early. These are the go-getters, the leaders, the type-A movers and shakers. They might not reach for a cup of coffee until a little before lunch, and their most productive hours have already passed by that time. Because of their action-packed mornings, they tend to fizzle out in the evening and turn in early.
Wolves are on the nocturnal end of the spectrum. They get a later start to their day and ride the productivity wave while the rest of the world winds down. Interestingly, wolves have two peak periods: from noon to 2:00 pm and again just as most of the working world is clocking out.
Wolves tend to be makers — writers, artists, coders. The creative areas of the wolf’s brain light up when the sun goes down. More often than not, wolf types tend toward introversion and crave their alone time.
The wolf chronotype schedules later meetings and invites you to dinner just past the restaurant’s dinner rush.
Dolphins may or may not have a regular sleep routine. As light sleepers, they frequently wake throughout the night and often do not sleep enough. Dolphins struggle to fall asleep, ruminating over the day’s failures.
Dolphins’ extreme intelligence and tendency toward perfectionism probably explain why they spend so much time chewing over the day. They do their best work from mid-morning through early afternoon.
When your schedule and chronotype don’t sync
During the teen years, circadian rhythms shift as part of the natural maturing process. This explains why your teenager suddenly likes to sleep in. (No, she’s not just being lazy.) Early school start times clash with teens’ natural brain patterns and result in insufficient sleep. Such unnatural schedules lead to learning and behavior problems, among other troublesome issues.
Likewise, the standard, factory-issue workday maxes out productivity for a handful of people, namely lions and bears. Thankfully, managers are starting to flex on start and end times, allowing employees to work at their most productive times. Not every profession lends itself to this model, but the ones that do are catching on.
What you can do to increase your productivity
To get the most out of your days, find out what your brain waves are doing and follow their lead. You don’t have to hook up to electrodes (unless you want to). Instead, figure out your best times for maximum productivity and key decision-making. Here’s exactly what to do to upgrade your day:
- Take Dr. Breus’ sleep chronotype quiz and learn about your spirit animal. Answering some simple questions will help you understand your natural rhythms.
- Re-organize your day. Work with your wiring, not against it.
- See how you feel. As you structure your day differently, pay attention to how your productivity, energy and tiredness respond. Tweak it until it’s just right.
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