All About Chronotypes: Discover What Sleep Schedule Is Best For You

Comparing yourself to that girl on Instagram who goes to the gym every morning at 5 a.m. before work? Wondering how your friends can possibly last at late-night parties when you're ready to throw in the towel at 9 p.m.? As it turns out, the 24-hour schedule around which our society has organized itself is not actually suited to everyone.

If you always struggle to wake up early, it doesn't mean you're lazy or immature. Similarly, people who feel like falling asleep after lunch aren't necessarily doing anything wrong, and those who hit the hay just after dark aren't boring, thank you very much. These tendencies are affected by our chronotypes.

In addition to other things, your chronotype can affect the way you like to exercise, your appetite and your core body temperature. So understanding this facet of your identity can help you to organize your life in a way that's customized to you, rather than society in general. There are advantages and disadvantages to all chronotypes, so there's no type that's better than the others. It's how you use your strengths and work around your weaknesses that counts.

What are chronotypes, exactly?

The Sleep Foundation defines chronotypes as "the natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time." Though most of the world is set up around a 24-hour cycle with designated times for sleeping and designated times for being awake, not everybody's chronotype fits into this standard. Some chronotypes are naturally more alert at night, while others suit the accepted working and sleeping hours. When your chronotype doesn't match your schedule, as would be the case of someone who's most efficient in the morning but works a night shift, this is referred to as social jetlag.

Several factors can determine a person's chronotype, including genetics and geographic location, but it's difficult to intentionally change your chronotype to suit your lifestyle. Rather than trying to change the rhythm at which your body peaks and troughs, it's better to find ways to adapt to your natural inclinations. Aim to save tasks that require concentration or creativity for the times that you perform at your best, where you can help it. This starts with learning about your chronotype.

Chronotypes have traditionally been split into two groups which you're probably already familiar with: early birds and night owls. However, emerging research has discovered that, like many things, chronotypes exist on a spectrum. Recently, a popular online quiz devised by Dr. Michael Breus has categorized the chronotypes into four groups: lion, bear, wolf, and dolphin. You can take the quiz on The Sleep Doctor to find out where you fit.


The lion is an early bird chronotype. As SleepScore Labs explains, between 10 and 20% of the population fit into the lion category. Their preferred wakeup time is 6 a.m. and they tend to go to bed no later than 10 p.m., when given the choice. They are typically most productive early in the morning, and tend to struggle with social events that require them to be up late at night, such as parties or bar-hopping.

If you're a lion, you're the type of person who probably benefits from heading in to work early and finishing earlier. Sometimes you have no choice but to start at the standard 9 a.m., but in this case, you could organize to complete several of your daily tasks early in the morning before you start. Lions often have no trouble starting their day by heading to the gym before work, cooking, studying, or doing other tasks that require effort. Fix My Sleep notes that lions are characteristically athletic, optimistic, and pragmatic.

Lions should avoid leaving important tasks until later in the day, because this is when your energy levels tend to get depleted. When planning your daily schedule, list your to-do plan in order of importance and complete the most essential tasks earlier, as you will become increasingly tired and unproductive as the day goes on.


The bear is the most common chronotype, with an estimated 55% of the population belonging to this group, per Casper. Bears are happiest going to bed at 11 p.m. and rising at around 7 a.m. They are the most efficient between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and tend to get hit with afternoon slumps that see them feeling sluggish after lunch. Personality-wise, bears are thought to be extroverted and easy-going.

If you fit into this group, you should plan your most important tasks for late morning, as this is when your energy picks up. Conversely, you should leave tasks that don't require a lot of thought power for the late afternoon. Casper explains that Oprah Winfrey is a bear chronotype, so that should give you an idea of what a bear can accomplish when they're operating at their best!

According to SleepScore Labs, bears don't frequently suffer from social jetlag because the standard day and night cycle is in sync with their body clock in most parts of the world. Their energy levels tend to mirror that of the sun, which is a definite advantage over other chronotypes who don't fit in with the standard work and school schedule.


The wolf is part of the night owl group. If you have this chronotype, you have probably struggled with waking up for school or work in the past. Wolves tend to wake up later than what is required for most schedules, at around 8 a.m. Around 15 to 20% of the population fit into this category (via Fix My Sleep). Personality-wise, wolves are creative, emotional, and adventurous.

Even though wolves tend to wake up at 8 a.m., they often aren't productive until night. Around dusk is when the magic happens, and wolves often have no trouble working right up until midnight, when they typically go to bed. Unlike early birds, wolves frequently require some kind of aid to help truly wake them up in the morning, such as an alarm or a shot of coffee. Despite most of their energy coming in after dark, wolves do experience short energy bursts throughout the day.

The wolf's natural rhythm isn't lined up to the society standard, so those with this chronotype may often suffer from social jetlag. If you can, plan less important tasks, or those which don't require a lot of effort, for the morning and late afternoon. Your first energy burst should hit around lunch, so aim to complete high-energy tasks from between noon and 3 p.m. You'll also have a chance to complete them at night, which is your time to shine. Just try to start winding down by around 10:30 p.m.


Out of all the chronotypes, dolphins tend to struggle with falling and staying asleep the most. As Casper explains, this chronotype, which is shared by around 10% of the population, wakes up around 6:30 a.m. and goes to sleep around 11:30 p.m., but they often feel tired throughout the day. Their peak time of operation is between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., so this is when you should plan for your most important tasks if you have this chronotype. Dolphins are often considered to be highly intelligent with more introverted personalities.

Zenly Organized advises dolphins to make their bed a place for sleep only, as completing other tasks in bed can make it even more difficult to fall asleep. If you're a dolphin, consider turning off your notifications in the mid-afternoon, as this is one of the few times that you'll experience a productivity peak during the day.

Despite some dolphins having common tendencies, this chronotype is also marked by irregularity. It's possible that you're a dolphin and don't fit into the rhythm that other dolphins do, which is okay. Chronotypes exist on a spectrum, and the mentioned bedtimes and wake-up times should be a guide only. The best thing you can do, no matter your chronotype, is pay attention to your energy levels and experiment with different bed times to find where you are healthiest and happiest.