About the Author: Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a board-certified sleep specialist. His book, The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype—and The Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More, explores how to use your body’s bio time to improve your health, happiness, productivity, and relationships.
Have you ever noticed that there are certain times when you prefer to do certain things—and that those preferences don’t necessarily align with others’ around you? You like to hit the ground running first thing in the morning, while your partner takes his time to shake off sleep. You eat your three square meals every day, while your co-worker snacks and grazes. You feel a boost of productivity and energy in the evening, while your roommate just wants to relax quietly and watch TV after dinner. You sleep soundly, straight through the night, while your best friend is constantly complaining about restless sleep.
These preferences are expressions of your body’s powerful biological rhythms, which regulate an incredible range of activity and behavior. These preferences are generally grouped into three categories, which are known as chronotypes. They are the early birds, who prefer mornings, the hummingbirds, who have an in-between preference, and the night owls, who prefer evenings.
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Understanding your Bio-Time for Optimal Sleep
Just going to bed, “when I’m tired’” may not be the best idea. Instead, consider going to bed based on your bio-time! There are two “rhythms” that will affect your ability to fall asleep, and I’ll go over each of them in detail, showing you how to calculate your ideal bedtime for your specific chronotype and how to deal with anxiety or insomnia as it affects your sleep.
The Calculated Rhythm
For this rhythm, you’ll use my Bedtime Calculator ™ to determine when you should go to bed. To get this bedtime calculation, I take the number of cycles based on typical chronotypes, and I subtract it from appropriate Chronotype wake-up times.
If the average sleep cycle is 90 min long (for most chronotypes) let’s look at each chronotype for the number of average cycles. It appears to fall into two categories: Lions and Bears tend to get five cycles, while Wolves and Dolphins tend to get four cycles. We can now do our calculation:
Lions: Usually 5 cycles x 90 min = 450 min + 20 min to fall asleep = 470 min
Bears: Usually 5 cycles x 90 min = 450 min + 20 min to fall asleep = 470 min
Bio-Time Bedtime for Lions and Bears:
Lions: up at 6:00am – 470 min = 10:10 pm
Bears: up at 7:00am – 470 min = 11:10 pm
Wolves: Usually 4 cycles x 90 min = 360 min + 40 min to fall asleep = 400 min
Dolphins: Usually 4 cycles x 90 min = 360 min + 40 min to fall asleep = 400 min
Bio-Time Bedtime for Wolves and Dolphins:
Wolves: up at 7:00am – 400 min = 12:00 am
Dolphins: up at 6:30am – 400 min = 11:50 pm
The Anxiety/ Insomnia Rhythm
This rhythm is when you get stuck in a cycle of worrying that you’re not getting enough sleep, which causes you to stay awake! This is most common in my Dolphins, as they tend to be self-diagnosed as insomniacs or just poor sleepers. If this is you, then you may want to explore a worry journal. This might include dedicating 30 minutes of your evening to writing out your worries, stresses, and problems you’ve been thinking about, as well as ways to solve or address them. Once everything is written down, close the journal and make a concerted effort to not think about these things until the following day. Sometimes it just takes that release of the information to clear your mind and get you ready for rest.
Keeping in mind, these two important rhythms are critical to understanding what your ideal bedtime and wake time is. Keeping these times consistent is another important step to seeing the benefits of utilizing these time sleep and wake times.
We live in a time of amazing technological and scientific innovation in the fields of health and medicine, with remarkable advances that are changing—and saving—lives. Using bio-time to protect your health costs nothing, and is entirely within your hands. Bio-time is a powerful tool to help protect your life, ward off illness, and improve mental and physical well-being.
What else can you do to help navigate the murky waters of sleep? Download the free SleepScore App for insights on how well you sleep, the quality and quantity of your sleep cycles, and sleep improvement progress with science-backed tips and insights. Personalized advice, goals, and challenges are available with an optional premium upgrade, but you can try SleepScore Premium for 7 days free (for a limited time).