Which Sleep Chronotype Am I & What Do They Mean?

5 Min Read | By Sophia Rimmer

Last Modified 15 September 2023   First Added 23 November 2020

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Whether you prefer an early night or tend to find yourself functioning better in the evenings, you’re likely to identify with a specific sleeping pattern or for another word, a chronotype.

Broken down into four animal categories, your sleep chronotype shows you how your internal body clock works best (your circadian rhythm). It also gives you some insight into your daily activities and when’s best to do them – such as eating, working, exercising, and socialising.

What are sleep chronotypes?

The popular book The Power of When by Dr. Michael Breus explains how we each have a sleep chronotype which determines the best times to do everyday activities. You probably already know whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, but Dr. Breus takes it a step further with four classifications: lion, bear, wolf and dolphin.

Knowing your sleep chronotype helps you to work with your body’s natural tendencies rather than against them. Dr. Breus explains it’s the PER3 gene that determines your sleep drive. This gene along with PER1 and PER2 is responsible for maintaining your circadian rhythm.

The benefits of understanding your sleep chronotype

While it’s not possible to change your chronotype, you can work with it and not against it in order to enjoy a better lifestyle and improved sleep. You’ll be able to tap into your internal body clock and improve productivity as well as your sleep quality. By understanding your chronotype, you can then set ideal sleep and wake-up times for an efficient everyday schedule that helps you perform at your best.

Once you start getting the right amount of sleep, or the right sleep cycle, it’ll have a positive impact on your mood and set you up for the day.

Learn more about sleep cycles:

What chronotype are you?

Discover your sleep chronotype below by studying the four animal categories and seeing which one resonates with you the most:

1. Bear chronotype

The bear chronotype is the most common, with the majority of people falling under this category. Bears perform better in the middle of the morning and tend to feel a slight dip in energy during mid-afternoon.

Top tips for those with a bear chronotype:

  • Wake up early (somewhere between 6 and 7am is recommended)
  • Eat a hearty breakfast to give you necessary energy for the whole day
  • Plan your working day and organise your most intense tasks to start in the middle of the morning
  • Going for a walk or simply being outside at lunchtime will help you to recharge
  • You might feel a dip in energy by mid-afternoon, so it’s best to schedule in meetings at this time – not tackle hard tasks
  • Get an early night (somewhere between 10 and 11pm is recommended)

2. Wolf chronotype

The wolf chronotypes are those who hate early mornings, they much prefer to stay up late and tend to do their best thinking at night.

Top tips for those with a wolf chronotype:

  • Try to get up on the later side, without interfering with your work schedule of course (around 8am)
  • Get outside to clear your head and wake you up from that grogginess
  • Have a late breakfast
  • Start any intense tasks after 2pm, which is when you’ll be most productive
  • By 5pm, you’re most likely to feel energetic, you may find you get more work done once everyone else has clocked out
  • Exercise in the evening
  • You can stay up late but try to hit the sack by 12am

3. Dolphin chronotype

Dolphins are incredibly light sleepers. They tend to struggle to fall asleep and wake up frequently throughout the night. This chronotype is most often found in those who suffer from insomnia.

Top tips for those with a dolphin chronotype:

  • After what might have been a sleepless night, dolphins will benefit from getting up early and taking a cold shower (anywhere between 6 and 10am is recommended)
  • Have a balanced breakfast
  • You’re likely to hit your peak somewhere between mid-morning and noon, so try to complete any pressing tasks in this time
  • After lunchtime, you might feel tired so try to get outside for a short walk and a burst of energy
  • Do light exercise in the early evening to wind down
  • Take a warm bath or shower and turn off all gadgets by 10pm
  • Get to sleep by 12am

4. Lion Chronotype

Lions are early risers who like to get all their stuff done before the afternoon and are burnt out come 5pm. They like to get an early night and sleep through until sunrise.

Top tips for those with a lion chronotype:

  • As you’re an early morning go-getter, it’s best to get out of bed early (somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30am is recommended)
  • You’re better off exercising first thing in the morning and eating breakfast shortly after
  • Your window for maximum productivity is somewhere between 10am and noon, so try to get all your important tasks completed during this time
  • Come 2pm you’re likely to feel a post-lunch slump, allow for simpler tasks at this time
  • Have an early dinner and get to sleep by 10pm, ready to rise early again

The best chronotype quizzes for free

If you’re still unsure what sleep chronotype you fall into, try out one of these quizzes below, for free, to help narrow it down.

  1. The Power of When
  2. What is Your Chronotype?

We hope you found your sleep chronotype and we wish you luck on your way to peak productivity and sleep success. While you’re here, why not check out our infographic on the meaning behind your sleeping position!

Plan your perfect night's sleep

About the author

More from the Sleep Matters Club