Sleeping well – Lions, Bears, Wolves and Dolphins
Sleeping can be tough. Especially now that our schedules have gone out the window and we’re all a bit more stressed and anxious. So what can we do to stop feeling tired all the time?
The first thing to do is to set up some sort of schedule where you try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. If you want some tips for getting to sleep once you’ve decided when you’re going to go to bed, check out this post by Christos.
But how do you decide when is a good time to go to bed and to wake up?
I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice that you should try to get around 7-9 hours of sleep a night. This means that if you HAVE to get up for a certain time in the morning (eg: if you have a 9am lecture), you can work backwards in order to work out when you need to go to sleep.
But what if you don’t need to get up for a certain time? If there are no constraints on when you sleep and when you don’t? Well, the simplest answer is to go to bed when you feel tired and wake up when you feel rested (actually … that’s sometimes seems easier said than done). This is where chronotypes come in.
What are Chronotypes?
Your chronotype relates to your circadian rhythm which determines when you start to feel tired and when you feel more awake. Your chronotype can actually help you to understand the best times to eat, work, exercise, socialise and much more – but for this post we’ll stick to talking about sleep and energy levels.
There are 4 different chronotypes: Lions, Bears, Wolves and Dolphins – but what does that mean for you?
Lions are the “early birds”. You probably want to try to sleep between 10pm and 5:30/6:30am. You’re likely to be most productive between 10am-12pm and are likely to feel a dip just after lunch (around 2pm).
Bears are the most common chronotype and the normal working day is actually based around them. The ideal time to go to sleep is around 10-11pm and the ideal time to wake up is around 7. You’re likely to be most productive in the middle of the morning and feel a dip in energy mid-afternoon.
Wolves are night owls. They hate early mornings and tend to do their best thinking at night (interestingly, the majority of teenagers and those in their early 20’s are supposedly wolves – sound familiar?). If you want to stay fairly close to “normal working hours” then sleeping 12am-8am is recommended but if you don’t have any commitments then you might prefer shifting your sleep time even later. Wolves are usually most productive after 2pm and probably have the most energy around 5pm.
Dolphins are typically very light sleepers and tend to struggle to fall asleep (and then stay asleep). You may find that you struggle to stick to a particular sleep schedule or struggle with insomnia. It’s recommended to try to get to sleep by 12am and wake up somewhere between 6am and 10am. You’re likely to be most productive between mid-morning and noon, feeling a dip around lunchtime.
How do you find out what your chronotype is?
You can probably take a guess at what your chronotype is based on when you feel most energised. But, f you’re still unsure, you can take a quiz at: http://www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com. This not only lets you know what your chronotype probably is, but also points you towards lots of interesting information about the best times to do different activities.
It’s important to note that everyone is different, so you need to find the right times that work for you. My advice is to work out what chronotype you are and start by trying out the suggested times for a few days. Then, decide if you want to move your bedtime forward or sleep in later and move them until you generally wake up just before your alarm clock goes off. Also remember that everyone needs different amounts of sleep so this will also have an effect. Finding the best times to sleep is a bit of trial and error but you’ll get there!
Now that you have an idea of when to go to sleep and wake up, what else can you do to try and improve your sleep?
- Definitely check out the tips Christos wrote about here
- Try to avoid drinking caffeine within around 6 hours of going to sleep (the common advice is to only drink it in the morning but I’ll leave that one up to you)
- Only use your bedroom (or at least your bed) for sleeping (if possible)
- Do some exercise during the day (but don’t exercise within 4 hours of going to bed as this will increase your body temperature and make it more difficult to relax)
- Make sure your room is cool and not stuffy (pretty easy at the moment given the weather)
- Have a shower or a bath an hour or 2 before going to bed as the temperature changes should help you relax
Hopefully these tips will help you to get better sleep in the weeks to come (or just feel more awake during the day).