Everyone’s sleep needs are personal, built on your body’s natural biological and behavior differences.
Did you know that people fall along a spectrum of sleep chronotypes? If you know your chronotype, it’s an easy way to understand your personal sleep needs.
What is a chronotype?
Chronotypes have quite a bit of science and research to back them up. They’re not the same as a personality assessment or blood type.
Chronotypes refer to individual differences in sleep timing and preferences at a given time of day. There are biological components to chronotypes, involving your cortisol levels and even core body temperature which was found to influence sleep behaviors. Other things like skin temperature have been disproven.
The two main types of chronotypes are morning types and evening types. – morning types like to get up and go to bed early, while evening types like to get up and go to bed later.
Our bodies go through a 24-hour cycle called our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is influenced by environmental factors like light, night and day phases, and our lifestyles & environment. They also include patterns in our hormones, body temperature, mood and sleep behavior.
While this cycle is influenced by social and environmental factors like light-exposure before bed and mandatory wake up times imposed by work, the physiological cycles themselves are specific to our bodies.
Morning types have the sleep phase of their cycle shifted earlier in the day, while night types have their phase shifted later in the day. Understanding your specific chronotype can help you adjust not only your behavior, but also your expectations in achieving a healthy sleep routine.
The goal of understanding your chronotype is to wake up better.
The main reason we should know our chronotypes is because we want to get the most out of our day. This also means we know how we can wake up better for our personal needs.
For morning types, you want to protect yourself from an irregular sleep routine which can have a lot of different consequences. This is because morning types tend to need more sleep than other types.
For evening types, the main goal is to eliminate sleep debt. This is because evening types tend to be night owls that stay up late. But if they need to be up early for work, they can start to lose sleep.
Read more: Set Your Morning Alarm Only Once- Here’s Why
The Morning Chronotype
Many people who are morning types tend to self-report a strong association with morningness. They wake up early, have a schedule, and make sure to get to bed early as well. Morning types have a longer sleep duration on average than evening types. And they also tend to go to sleep faster (sleep latency).
Being a morning type doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “morning person” who enjoys mornings. It means your body is just dispositioned to wake up early, and sleep in earlier.
Morning types tend to peak in performance early in the day compared to evening types. They also tend to report having better sleep on average than those night owls. This could be attributed to morning type people forming more consistent sleep routines. However morning types were also found to experience peak cortisol levels when woken up.
Morning types were found to maintain better cognition in older ages compared to evening types.
The Evening Chronotype
Read more: Do I Have A Sleep Debt?
Those who are evening types have later sleep schedules; they stay up late and given the chance, sleep in later. Evening types were found to sleep in much more on the weekdays than morning people.
Evening types tend to feel daytime sleepiness more than morning chronotypes do. However these types also tend to underestimate their subjective sleepiness. This could be because over time, one gets accustomed to feeling tired at certain times of the day.
Evening types have more difficulty getting in the amount of sleep they need. Some of this could be because they naturally are more prone to staying up late. But with regular work days usually starting early, they’re more likely to build up that sleep debt. They’re 3 times more likely to incur a sleep debt over the course of a week than morning types.
Some of the main differences between morning and evening types:
- Morning types get more sleep on average
- Morning types report having better sleep quality than other types
- Evening types sleep in more on the weekends than morning types
- Evening types stay up later and become accustomed to not enough sleep
- Evening types are 3 times more likely to incur a sleep debt
What does my chronotype say about my sleep?
Knowing what chronotype you are helps you understand your personal sleep needs, and create a system that works for you. What your chronotype does is mostly speak about your natural disposition to have certain behaviors that are influenced by both your environment and your lifestyle.
However understanding sleep is also important for your overall health.
Circadian misalignment describes inappropriately timed sleep and wake cycles that affect our bodies. Inappropriately times sleep and wake are linked to misalignment in other functions, like dysregulating appetite hormones, glucose metabolism, and mood.
This implies that better understanding our personal sleep needs could actually greatly improve our health and quality of life, not just our sleep quality.
Research behind chronotypes and studies
Research into chronotypes has been going on for years, but it’s still fairly new.
The main questionnaire that people refer to in order to understand their sleep types is Morningness Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) and the Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ)
Studies even investigate whether being a morning or evening type affects your physical and cognitive performance, which could have some implications for those who need to focus on their peak physical performance such as in sports.
Social jet lag is another concept being explored. It describes the difference in your sleep patterns on work days versus the weekends, or free days. There’s a shift in sleep schedules due to the fact that many people sleep in when they have free days, while they need to be up early and on time for work on other days.
This shift is described to be similar to when you change timezones, when your body is not dispositioned for the environment.
Social jet lag speaks of how our sleep and activities can influence your social quality and your mental wellbeing. The disruption can be chronic because the person is still in the same environment, but still feels like they need more sleep to make up for other days in their schedule.
How we are personalizing tech for your sleep needs
Regardless of chronotypes, people have different lifestyles and needs and factors that make sleep unique to them. The key part to having sleep tech is to improve sleep, but to also improve our quality of life.
VibeRise is sleepwear and sleeptech that focuses on improving those aspects of sleep. The device is a wearable silent alarm that wakes you up gently, slowly alerting your sleep cycle. Instead of jolting you awake, you feel more well-rested, energized and ready to wake up.
Our app also uses your personal sleep needs to help you understand your sleep patterns, and make actionable improvements.
You can check us out on Indiegogo.