There is a longstanding belief that those who bounce out of bed at the crack of dawn are superior to those who stay up late and favour a sleep-in. But the truth is, when it comes to sleep, one size doesn’t fit all.
Associate Professor Alan Young, president of the Australasian Sleep Association, explains we all have an internal body clock responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle over a 24-hour period. This is known as our circadian rhythm, and everyone’s is a little bit different.
“There is natural variation in an individual’s circadian rhythm partly due to ‘clock genes’, which can determine the length of our circadian rhythm, for example it can be slightly shorter or longer than 24 hours, and how quickly it can adapt to changes – like recovery from jet lag for example,” he says. “These variations in a person’s circadian rhythm influence their chronotype, or propensity to sleep at a particular time.”
Sleep specialist Dr Michael Breus has identified four chronotypes in humans and likened them to a particular animal: a bear, wolf, lion, or dolphin. By discovering your individual chronotype, you can achieve better sleep patterns and reap the health and wellness benefits.