The thing about Chronotypes

Listening to the masterclass by Matthew Walker on sleep I stumbled upon the whole idea of living as per one’s Biotime and the idea of the Chronotype. While I have always preferred to do certain activities at certain times, I could not have been more convinced by the biotime concept put forward by Micheal Breus. In his book, “The Power of When” Breus suggests that all the people in the world could be classified into 4 main types, the Lion, the Bear, the Dolphin and the Wolf. While the Lions are the early birds, the Bears the normal birds, the Wolves the late lateefs and the Dolphins are the devil may care type who prefer to do whatever, literally whenever. An easy way to know what you are Brazilian psychologists have curated the following quiz, on a scale of 1-5 rate how much energy you have when you wake up in the morning, now use the same scale to rate how much energy you have in the evening. When you subtract the evening’s score from the mornings score, the number will tell you what chronotype you could be falling under.

A number 4, 3 or 2 is indicative of a Lion, 1, 0, -1 is indicative of a Bear, -4, -3, -2 is indicative of a Wolf, a Dolphin is essentially one who has a case of insomnia and cannot exactly fall into a more sizeable sleep routine. Now if you’d like a more accurate test, I’d suggest you use the embedded link to find out for yourself.

Now once you are settled in on your chronotype, living in sync with your chronotype can have you reap rewards, the world does reward those who celebrate themselves, and it all begins with the acknowledgement of the fact that every person is unique with different skills and challenges. While every one would want to be the Lion, who incidentally have the highest life satisfaction, are extremely healthy and are go-getters or achievers, not everyone can factually be a Lion chronotype. There is much wisdom in accepting your own unique chronotype, tapping the healing power of the Circadian Rhythm and getting to work with your bio-rhythm, following your biotime to the T and hence making the best of your life. It turns out that the circadian rhythm also known as the biological clock affects every area of functioning in the body, controlling everything from the multiplication of cancer cells to the integrity of the immune system. Even the gut has a circadian pacemaker of its own, when not on the biological clock schedule, hormone disruption causes increased levels of inflammation, inefficient metabolism and even decreased effectiveness of many prescription therapies. Getting to know the best time to do many basic tasks is a wonderful way to set on the biotime. It turns out that there is in fact the perfect time to do everything.

The advent of electricity, transportation, computer technology and the 24/7 smartphone are all the big time disruptors of our body clocks. Just 125 years of industrialisation and development coolly undid about 50,000 years of perfect bio-timekeeping. Chrono-misalignment causes symptoms like insomnia and sleep deprivation that in turn leads mood disorders, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity, making one overwhelmed and exhausted in relationships, careers and health. Needless to say, unless one turns off every screen and light at 6 p.m., chrono-misalignment is certain to happen in one way or the other. Animals pay heed to their inner clocks, but we humans tend to wilfully ignore ours, cramming our circadian rhythms into social rhythms, that are often in direct opposition to what our bodies are supposed to be doing at that time. Good timing is so powerful that it can change anyone’s life. Living on Bio-time can make one happier.

It’s all almost genetic and cannot be altered as much as one wants it to. It all begins with the time one wakes up. Lions do well to wake up at about 5:30 AM, Bears and Wolves at 7:00 AM, Dolphins at 6:00 AM, once up, the time for each of these chronotypes to perform the best of certain activities, remains diverse. Just like the animals they are attributed to, the Lion chronotypes, wake up completely energised and work best in the morning hours before the sun is up, the Bear chronotypes on the other hand follow the solar cycle to the T becoming ready to work a couple of hours into the day, the Wolves work best after sunset, a trend associated with creativity (though any of the chronotypes can be equally creative if they do harness the best of their biotime) and the Dolphins manage to straddle well all through the day though being light sleepers they sleep uni-hemispherely. While a thorough reading of the book could offer one insights on the best way to structure one’s day, it is without a doubt, telling us that routines are important for any type of people.

Setting off any screens or light after 6 PM is not practical not possible for most of us, maybe just the Jews on Sabbath day, but for the rest of us, it is clearly not something that can be done just as easily as it sounds. But the closer we are to our own biorhythms, or the closer we are to doing what naturally comes to us, the better we can function as human beings. While Dr Breus asks all chronotypes to eat at the strike of noon, a trend that is largely championed by Ayurveda alike, and eating before sunset, another suggestion Ayurveda makes is also recommended in Dr Breus’s book. While 60 minutes of exercise every single day is a given, when you do this exercise can have great rewards for one’s body. Dr Breus, says that working out the first thing in the morning is bad for all chronotypes as our bodies are not yet warmed up enough and can face injuries much more easily, except for the Bear chronotype who he recommends should go for a run within half an hour of waking up. Go for a run at 7:30 AM he says, but do not exercise intensively, like strength-training or the like. In fact he asks all chronotypes to not even perform yoga in the mornings unless one is into advanced practise, for Bears do better to do yoga at 12 noon, and do intensive exercises or play a team sport at 6 PM in the evening. Lions are asked to play team sports at 4 PM, practise yoga at 5 PM and go for a run at 6 PM in the evening. Wolves in effect are asked to eat lunch at 1 PM, go for a run at 6 PM, play team sports or train for strength at 7 PM and practice yoga at 10 PM. Dolphins, are again asked to eat lunch at noon, to go running at 7 AM, play team sports at 6 PM and practise yoga at 10 PM.

The master clocks that synthesise all the information in the very end distilling it all to perfection, may be a perfect way to make sense of all the information and follow it to make of structuring one’s day for the best.

I am for one, open to further discussion on this post, so do comment or let me know what you think!