Sleep Like a Beast: How Knowing Your Chronotype Can Lead to Your Best Life
Take a chronotypes quiz to know if you're a bear, wolf, lion or dolphin. Learn how to get better sleep and increase productivity based on your chronotype.
First things first, what are chronotypes? They're classifications of your body's natural inclination to sleep. And also when it's ready for action.
Chronotypes influence when you feel awake and tired during the day. It doesn't end there, either. Your chronotype also regulates your appetite, exercise, and temperature.
In the not-too-distant past, sleepers belonged to two chronotypes. This builds on the research of Olov Östberg and James A. Horne in the 1970s. “Early birds” rose with the sun to greet the day. And “night owls” stayed up until the wee hours.
Later on, it became clear that this two-bird system doesn’t fit everybody.
Enter the approach of Dr. Michael J. Breus, PhD (The Sleep Doctor). Following years of research into circadian science, dyssynchrony, and chronotypes and sleep, Dr. Breus introduced the concept of the bear, dolphin, lion, and wolf sleep chronotypes under copyright in his 2016 book The Power of When and subsequently on SleepDoctor.com. He is also creator of the chronoquiz to help you determine your chronotype.
According to him, you’re either a wolf, lion, bear or dolphin. This article explores each chronotype in detail. And how to take advantage of yours to improve sleep and productivity.
Ready to discover your chronotype? Here's our version of the quiz:
Done? If you don't agree with your results, read through the other chronotypes to see which one is the best fit.
To live your best life, it’s crucial to understand your chronotype. This may sound like a bit of a stretch, but hear us out.
Let's look at it from an animal's point of view. Lions wouldn’t be the king of the beasts if they slept until noon and hunted by moonlight like wolves. And dolphins would become prey if they slept for 8 hours like bears.
Knowing your chronotype lets you plan your day around when you're most energetic. It sure beats forcing productivity when your energy is at an all-time low. Agree?
Your chronotype is encoded in your DNA. According to Sleep Foundation, there’s evidence that chronotypes are linked to genetics(1).
So, if you want to be on top of your game, don't go against how you’re wired. Forcing yourself to plug away may make you feel off-kilter and unable to focus.
The same logic applies to sleep. Forcing it while at your peak productivity level isn't going to improve your quality of zzzs.
Granted you may not have control over when you need to be up. It helps to get out of bed when you're good and ready.
Adapting to your chronotype may help you sleep better and get more done.
Fifteen to 20% of the population are lions. They’re the new early birds.
Lions like you are usually up before sunrise, eager to hunt. You’re likely a go-getter and rule-maker. And you're up and running before others have even thought about breakfast.
People usually describe you as conscientious, stable, practical and optimistic. You're likely an overachiever whether in the office, gym or bedroom.
You like competition and you love socializing. And there's no problem combining both. Strategy is your game. And you make sure your contingency plans have contingency plans.
How to Work the Lion Chronotype
Get the stuff that needs the most energy and focus done in the morning. This is because you hit your peak way before noon. Schedule important meetings and client calls before 10 a.m. when your mind is sharpest.
The pre-dawn quiet before others are up is a perfect time for a 20-minute meditation. This clears the mind and sharpens your instincts.
Throw in a high-protein breakfast (easy on the carbs) and an early workout. These will help you make the most of that morning vitality for a day of chasing promotions (or gazelles).
Come mid-morning, bolster your energy reserves with a high-energy snack. A protein bar or nuts work. But get ready for a slump in the late afternoon.
You may coast through until evening and by 9 p.m. feel drained. Lunch before noon, followed by a 20- to 30-minute nap at 1:00 p.m. helps keep your roar powerful.
Don't give in to a late-afternoon dose of caffeine just to keep you going until bedtime. This decision could come back to bite you when you turn in for the night.
Instead, have a balanced dinner early. Also, reach for a high-energy snack in the evening. Here are some examples:
Banana slices with peanut butter
A boiled egg
The US Army’s slogan: “We get more done by 9:00 a.m. than most people do all day” was likely written by a lion.
Jobs that start at zero-dark-thirty are ideal for the lion chronotype schedule. Examples include baker, personal trainer, morning radio DJ, pilot, stocker or mail carrier.
Lions operate best with a sleep schedule of 10:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
Manta Sleep Tip for Lions
To help you make the most of your nap before noon, try using the Manta COOL and Manta STEAM masks. They block out most light and deliver warm or cool compression therapy.
Manta COOL Mask refreshes tired eyes. Perfect for when you’ve been staring at your screen all morning.
Former night owls, this is your group. You belong to the 15 to 20% of the population that has the wolf chronotype.
Wolves like to stay up late to howl. The party doesn’t even get started until midnight, and it’s going to keep going like an LMFAO video.
Members of this chronotype are the ones hosting 3 a.m. exhibits in art galleries. They attend after-after-parties and keep all-night diners in business.
As a wolf, your key personality traits are impulsivity, creativity, pessimism and moodiness. (Oh well, at least the creative part is positive).
How to Work the Wolf Chronotype
Mornings are especially brutal for this chronotype. If you wake to an alarm, set it so that you can hit snooze a couple of times for a gradual start to your day.
As soon as you rise, throw back the curtains and expose yourself to sunlight. This will kickstart your brain.
If you have a wolf chronotype schedule you won't hit your stride until early afternoon. And you'll have a more significant peak late in the evening.
These are the best times to channel the wolf's creativity and problem-solving intellect. Stick to mundane tasks and busy work earlier in the day as your energy builds.
Take a nap as your afternoon burst of energy wanes. This ensures you have the stamina for late-night escapades. Throw in an evening cardio routine to burn off that late-in-the-day restlessness.
Your natural inclination is to stay up late. So, power down electronics in the evening to avoid stimulating your brain. (Resist going down the online rabbit holes of tantalizing information.)
Wolves are often introverted artists who are great at solving problems. This includes writers, photographers, musicians and coders.
Wolf freelancers can capitalize on nocturnal energy to get a lot of work done. Do this during the distraction-free peaceful hours when other chronotypes are sleeping. (Except for the dolphins — they’ve got it tough).
The wolf chronotype is also a perfect fit for night work when most of the world is fast asleep. Think ER staff, air traffic controllers, bar staff, taxi drivers and security guards.
If your lifestyle permits, the best sleep schedule for the wolf chronotype is from 5 a.m. until noon. If this isn't possible, get everything ready the night before so you can wake up as late as possible.
Manta Sleep Tip for Wolves
Wolves tend to get most of their sleep done when the sun is high in the sky. And this can pose a real problem to sleep quality because light can make it hard to fall asleep and stay there.
Use a sleep mask that blocks out the world. And won’t make you feel hot and sweaty when the temperature rises during the day. Try Manta Sleep Mask PRO.
We pulled out all the stops to create the most advanced sleep mask on the planet. Manta PRO Sleep Mask is 100% blackout.
It's made from advanced materials for maximum breathability and side-sleeping comfort. An infinitely adjustable head strap and C-shaped eye cups give a personal fit.
Wolves, if you want to keep the light out of your dens, then this mask is all you need.
According to The Sleep Doctor, bears make up around 55% of the population(1).
Bears usually get a solid 8 hours of slumber, with little problem falling asleep at the day’s end. But if you don’t get those 8 hours, you tend to be lethargic and cranky during the day.
Mornings can be beastly despite getting a full night of sleep. Bears rarely wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go. In short, if you have a bear chronotype schedule, you’re likely not a morning person.
Take it slow in the morning and you’ll be ready to face a day of gathering food and socializing. That first cup of coffee is more golden than a whole pot of honey.
Bears are cautious, extroverted, friendly and open-minded. This chronotype gets along well with others.
How to Work the Bear Chronotype
The first thing a bear does after getting up is to have a morning stretch. This is an excellent hack for this chronotype. A 10-minute stretch routine oxygenates muscles and clears brain fog.
Bears are most productive in the late morning. (You need to build up some momentum, first.) As you gradually gain speed, use the time to plan out your day.
Afterward, make the most of the mounting energy with a late-morning workout. It'll help burn off breakfast calories, too.
Bear energy levels stay pretty consistent all day long. That is except for a post-lunch dip between 2 and 4 in the afternoon.
A late-morning snack after your workout can help counter this. Be sure to keep it healthy, as bears tend to forage and feast out of boredom.
Keep energy levels strong through the evening with a mid-afternoon nap. After your snooze and if the weather is good, spend time outdoors. Sunlight helps boost melatonin production and keeps your circadian rhythm steady.
The bear chronotype often tries to catch up on lost sleep during the weekend. But it’s best to maintain your weekday schedule so as not to disrupt that stable sleep routine.
Bears do well with the standard 9-to-5 positions. You're suited to office management, politics and event planning. In short, positions with lots of public interaction.
A job that starts late enough to bypass morning grogginess is ideal. It's also best if it ends shortly after an afternoon slump. If your workplace is flexible, a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule may fit well with your natural energy levels.
The ideal sleep schedule for bears is from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Manta Sleep Tip for Bears
Lucky bears have the least difficulty falling asleep. But they’re prone to sleep disruptions, too. And beware the bear that doesn’t clock in their 8 hours. Lucky bear becomes beastly bear.
Artificial light is one of the most common sleep disruptors out there, especially if you live in the city. We recommend our original 100% blackout sleep mask. It's simple yet effective.
Manta SLEEP Mask comes with detachable eye cups. And an infinitely adjustable head strap for a fit that’s all yours. It’s 100% blackout and made from soft and breathable modal fabric. Great for any sleep position, too.
Mind Body Green says that only 10% of the population belongs to this chronotype, making it the rarest of them all(2).
“Always sleep with one eye open” is the motto of the dolphin kingdom. And they take it literally, snoozing with only half their brain at a time. It helps them stay alert for danger (and opportunities for mischief).
Dolphins’ brains are always active. This chronotype is an undersea home for overthinkers. Ruminating about the day’s conversations and upcoming events keeps you awake.
The personality traits of this chronotype are cautiousness, introversion and intelligence. Along with, we hate to say it, neuroticism.
Dolphins are detail-oriented. They're averse to risk-taking. And can sometimes go overboard with these qualities. But they’re also mindful and excellent listeners. Think Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Dolphins often suffer irregular and interrupted sleep patterns. This leads to days filled with fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
How to Work the Dolphin Chronotype
If you have a dolphin chronotype schedule, you’ll want to skip the snooze button. It’s only going to reinforce your erratic sleep patterns.
A cardio workout first thing in the morning gets the blood circulating. Plus, it’ll give you a physical and mental boost to face the day. Get some sunlight with a jog to help you become more alert, too.
Dolphins hit their energy peak between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is usually followed by another burst in the evening. Plan your day and do routine work when you have less energy.
A 30-minute post-lunch nap is essential to supplement lost sleep. And an evening stretching or yoga routine will help you make it to bedtime. (But make sure that it’s not too high intensity, or it could affect your sleep.)
Afterward, have light, melatonin-rich snacks like almonds or cherries. As falling asleep is already a challenge, avoid caffeine after noon. And don't drink alcohol within four hours before going to bed.
Taming the overactive dolphin mind before sleeping can help with sketchy sleep patterns. A bedtime meditation regimen can help calm intrusive thoughts. The same with practicing mindfulness throughout the day.
For dolphins, anxiety is often behind insomnia. Speaking to a medical professional could prove very helpful. Talk therapy is excellent.
And so is journaling. Putting words to anxious thoughts can put things into perspective. It'll also help you sort your feelings.
A to-do list before bedtime helps prevent upcoming tasks from burdening your mind. Reach for a book instead of the remote to keep your brain occupied. Electronics can further disrupt your shaky sleep patterns.
Dolphins can channel their perfectionism into detail-oriented professions. Some examples are editors, musicians, auditors, surgeons, analysts, engineers and astrophysicists. And even careers built on advanced mathematics.
Try and shoot for a sleep schedule of 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. We won’t lie because it can get tricky for dolphins. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t sleep.
Here's a tip if it takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night. Get up and do some light activity until you’re ready to sleep.
Manta Sleep Tip for Dolphins
Dolphins, we feel you. Overthinking is something you do, but it doesn’t mean you need to compromise your sleep. That’s why naps and a good pre-bedtime routine are so important. And the right sleep mask to go with that, too.
Manta WEIGHTED Sleep Mask helps calm your anxiety and improve your mood. Like a weighted blanket, it may help slow down your breathing and heart rate. It does so by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system.
It will gently massage the pressure points on your face. And it may also signal your brain to release the sleep hormone melatonin. And its happy counterpart, serotonin.
Manta WEIGHTED Sleep Mask is filled with glass microbeads. These are evenly distributed across the mask. And reinforced with stitching. The weight gives the pressure points on your face a gentle massage.
This comfy mask also comes with tapered eye cups. They protect your eyes from direct pressure while giving the pressure points around your eye area a gentle massage. Oh, it's 100% blackout and infinitely adjustable, too.
Still Can’t Tell Your Chronotype? Grab the Thermometer!
If you’re still not sure which chronotype is yours, you can try the temperature test.
Take your temperature every hour, starting at 5 in the afternoon. As your body prepares for sleep, your core temperature lowers. So, you’ll notice a drop at a certain time.
If your temperature drops at around 7 p.m., you’re likely a lion. The body temperature of a bear will start to fall at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, wolves will see their temperature drop at 10 p.m.
For the best accuracy, take readings for a few nights. And dolphins, we’re sorry to report that this hack doesn’t work since you’re the wildcards.
It’s also worth noting that you may be a combination of chronotypes. Read our article on the hybrid chronotype schedule to learn more.
Hopefully, now you're sure of your sleep animal. So let’s take a look at one of the biggest chronotype issues.
What if my partner’s chronotype is different?
As we mentioned earlier, over 50% of the adult population makes up the bear chronotype. This means the odds are in your favor that you're both bears.
But what if you’re a wolf sharing space with a lion? Or a dolphin living with anyone (even another dolphin)?
Some chronotypes will manage to adapt with mutual compromise and consideration. They may even complement one another’s sleep and energy patterns.
For example, a bear and lion couple should be able to manage fine. This is so long as the bear understands the lion's need for an earlier bedtime. And the lion can rein in that early-morning enthusiasm during the bear's groggy period.
Things are more difficult when it comes to those from opposing chronotypes. For instance, a lion and wolf couple. In some cases, it might even be worth considering a sleep divorce so you can both be at your best.
We get it. The mere mention of it may have made you tense and disconnected from your partner. But your partner’s sleep issues can become yours.
Sleeping in different rooms (or even in shifts) isn’t selfish. It may improve your relationship.
You'll both be less irritable when you’re well-rested. Operating on your natural schedules leaves you with the energy to enjoy each other’s company.
Sleeping in different rooms doesn’t mean there’s trouble in paradise. According to Self, it can prompt you to be more intentional in your intimacy(3).
One example is scheduling some cuddle time before hitting separate sacks. Or sleep together on the weekends. Find other ways to be close without sacrificing your sleep.
Now you're probably wondering if it's possible for one of you to change chronotypes. After all, it seems like the easiest thing to do.
I hate my chronotype. Can I change it?
Chronotypes change throughout childhood, adolescence and puberty. Toddlers start off as early-rising lions, while most teens live in the wolf’s territory.
But once you hit your early twenties, you’re locked in. Unless genetic modification becomes a norm, you’re stuck with what you’ve got. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
But that doesn’t mean you’re tied to a specific schedule. Wolves won’t share the lion’s eagerness to rise and shine at first light, for example. Either chronotype can make gradual adjustments to their optimal schedules (a few hours). And still, be at their peak.
The good news is there's an exception. At around 65, your chronotype will gradually alter. And you may naturally shift to a lion’s schedule. But there’s an equal chance you could shift to a dolphin’s sketchy sleep patterns instead.
Sleep Tips for All Chronotypes
Regardless of your chronotype, we’ve got techniques borrowed from the animal kingdom. These will help you maximize your energy levels and sleep as well as you can.
Mind your den.
When you picture an animal’s den, what images spring to mind? It makes us think of a cool, quiet, dark, simple place of comfort. And this is a great way to model your bedroom.
Block out as much light as possible. Darkness is an important factor in getting good sleep. Even the slightest light can impair your circadian rhythms.
A set of blackout curtains in the bedroom is good. Use blackout stickers to cover the LEDs on power strips and chargers.
But the best and easiest option is to use a sleep mask to block all light from inside and outside your bedroom.
Keep your bedroom neat and clutter-free. Animals maintain a simple, tidy den and so should you. It makes it easier to navigate and it’ll help reduce bedtime anxiety. Chances are, you'll wake up feeling more motivated.
This especially applies to your nightstand. Don't turn it into a junk pile. Limit it to the essentials.
Make sure your bedroom temperature is optimal for sleep. Don't forget to fiddle with your thermostat before going to bed. Sleep experts recommend a temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooler temperatures are why our animal friends like to burrow or nest in caves.
Stick to a routine.
Ever had to face your pet’s mournful eyes when you feed them 5 minutes late? Then you understand how much animals appreciate routine. And it’s important for you, too.
Waking at a specific time, including weekends, keeps your circadian rhythms running smoothly. Work out on schedule and have meals at the same time every day, too.
Maintain a solid pre-bedtime routine. This tells your mind and body when they should be ramping up. And when it’s time to wind down.
Don't forget to nap. If there’s one area where animals have us beat, it’s catching 40 winks. The reason? Animals don’t fight sleep the way we do. When the urge strikes, even the stubborn mule will doze.
That post-lunch slump is real. Our natural rhythms include a lull in the afternoon. Give in to this impulse.
Besides restoring your energy levels, a nap will also make you more alert. It'll sharpen your cognitive ability, sweeten your mood and improve your stamina. And it’ll even boost your immune system.
Get into the wild for sunshine.
All the time animals spend outdoors exposes them to the sunlight. This is what keeps their internal body clocks running like a Swiss watch.
Get as much natural light as you can during the day to keep your sleep-wake cycle running well, too. If you work indoors, situate yourself near a window or under a skylight.
Open the curtains first thing in the morning. And take your breaks outside whenever possible.
Humans don't hibernate when the weather turns cold (Wouldn’t that be nice, though?). Consider investing in a lightbox of at least 10,000 lux. This will simulate the sunshine you’re missing during the winter months.
Conclusion: Go Full Beast Mode
Chronotypes help you succeed as a human by following your animal instincts. There's no need to pressure yourself to go to bed with the rest of the world. Going with what's natural helps you sleep better at night and have a more productive day.
Here's what you're in for when you follow your chronotype's natural sleep and wake schedule:
Better sleep at night from going to bed when you're actually tired
Feel ready to face the day by knowing the best time to wake up
Get important things done (and done well) by maximizing your productivity levels
When to eat or snack in the day (or night) for optimal energy.
So lions, don’t try to stay up until midnight. And wolves, there’s no point in trying to sleep at 10 p.m.
Embrace your inner animal and start following your optimal sleep schedule.
(1) “Chronotypes.” Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/chronotypes. Accessed 08 March 2023.
(2) “Chronotypes.” The Sleep Doctor, thesleepdoctor.com/how-sleep-works/chronotypes/. Accessed 08 March 2023.
(3) “Only 10% Of People Have This Sleep Pattern — What It Means If You're One Of Them.” MindBodyGreen, www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/dolphin-sleep-chronotype. Accessed 08 March 2023.
(4) Patia Braithwaite, “How a Sleep Divorce Could Make Your Relationship Stronger.” Self, www.self.com/story/sleep-divorce. Accessed 05 February 2021.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website or provided through our blog, e-mails, or programs is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment that can be provided by your healthcare professionals.