Each of us has an innate dream style that can affect every aspect of our life, from personal to professional. Finding out yours can help you make the most of your waking hours and improve the quality of your sleep.
What is sleep style?
Your sleep style is your body’s natural tendency to sleep at a specific time, called a chronotype. Naturally, you may wake up early or be more likely to stay up late. Timing can affect everything from your desire to eat and exercise habits to even your core body temperature. Depending on your chronotype, you may feel more awake during part of the day and more sleepy at other times.
The chronotype is similar to the circadian rhythm, your built-in body clock that dictates your sleep-wake cycle, but there are differences. The circadian rhythm responds to signals from the world around us, such as light and ambient temperature. Your body then releases the hormone melatonin, which helps you sleep.
The chronotype, on the other hand, is more fixed. Researchers believe that your age, gender, and other genetic factors decide that.
Four sleep styles
To find out your chronotype, think about what time you naturally wake up without commitments like work or school. This is also when you feel most focused and alert. Four common sleep styles are:
Morning lark. Also known as early risers, you wake up very early. You are also most productive in the morning, and activity decreases at night.
Night owl. Usually, you don’t go to sleep until after 1 a.m. And you feel more alert later in the day, although you may need to get up early in the morning. About 15% of people are night owls.
Hummingbird Most of us fall somewhere between morning larks and night owls. Experts call this type of dream a hummingbird and believe that 55% of all people are in this group. You thrive on a standard daytime work schedule, but still have enough energy for nighttime tasks.
Bimodal. Researchers are studying this fourth chronotype. Bimodal means that you can have morning and evening trends and spikes in activity at every moment of the day.
Your sleep style generally depends on your gender and can change as you age. Many teenagersYoung adults and biological men are night owls, while older adults and biological women tend to be the morning type. Your genes can also play a role in your chronotype. The researchers believe that the longer the allele is in a central gene in your circadian clock, the more likely you are to be a morning person.
The impact of sleep style
So what happens when your natural sleep style collides with everyday life? You may be a night owl, but you still have to get up for work or school at 6am. Then you get back to sleep on your days off to make up for the sleep you lost. Experts call this difference between the things you need to do and what your body craves “social jet lag.”
Many people change their sleep schedule on the weekend and then have trouble falling asleep on Sunday night while trying to readjust for work the next morning. “It’s like changing the time zone. It doesn’t work very well, ”says Steven Feinsilver, MD, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
With social jet lag, you likely feel tired all the time, and it’s hard to focus when all your body wants is sleep. It can also affect morning larks. If you usually go to bed early, you are relaxing as nighttime activities increase. For example: a musician who has a concert that starts at 10 p.m.
Scientists have found that social jet lag can affect your physical and mental health. They have linked it to heart and blood vessel disease, obesity and depression, but they need to do more research.
Tips to suit your sleep style
While you can’t change your chronotype, knowing it can help you figure out when you’re most productive and at your best socially and creatively.
Stick to a sleep schedule. If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, it is possible to adjust your built-in biological clock for better sleep. “The secret to getting a good night’s sleep is getting your circadian rhythm to match your sleep schedule,” says Feinsilver.
One of the most important things you can do is maintain a regular sleep schedule. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Reserve your bed for sleeping. Limit the amount of time you spend in bed, a type of therapy called sleep restriction. Let’s say you’re normally in bed for 8 hours, but only sleep for 6. Sleep restriction is when you’re only in bed for the number of hours you sleep. You will begin to sleep better and little by little you will be able to spend more time in bed as long as it does not interrupt your rest.
Wake up your body. When you wake up in the morning, open the blinds or turn on the light, eat some food, and exercise. They act as signals to turn on your biological clock.
Although these tips may work regardless of your sleep style, it is much more difficult to change the circadian rhythm of those who are more active after the sun goes down, such as night shift workers. Your biological clock can adjust to a work schedule at night and sleep during the day. But if you take a few days off, you will probably go back to the standard way of sleeping.
“Humans never adapted very well to being nocturnal animals,” says Feinsilver. “You can’t fool Mother Nature.”
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