It’s tempting to think that with a great night’s sleep – especially on a Simba Hybrid® - you can supercharge your mornings and get ultra-productive from 6am. Regular, quality sleep can certainly impact your creativity and productivity no matter what your daily patterns, but can you change the kind of sleeper – and waker – you are? We turned to our resident sleep psychologist, Hope Bastine, for the answers.
What is a chronotype?
Our internal circadian system – or Master Clock - dictates when we wake up, when we go to sleep, and when we are most productive. It even determines when we should take naps! We call the pattern that we fall into a ‘chronotype’.
What scientists have also discovered is that there is some genetic variability on our Master Clock. This would explain why some people are night owls, while others are morning larks. 2017 Nobel laureates, Doctors Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young identified that the PER gene is responsible for proteins that accumulate in cells during the night and then diminish throughout the day. So if you have a long PER2/3 gene, you’re likely to be an early riser, needing seven to nine hours of shuteye to perform at your best. But If you have a shorter PER2/3 gene, you’re a late riser needing slightly less sleep.
Less than 3% of us have a rare genetic mutation that means they can get by on around six hours (or even less) of sleep a night and appear healthy. However, the research on this is fairly new and we know very little about the long-term consequences of this.
Finding out your own chronotype can be done through various online tests - or you could look at your sleep patterns with the Simba sleep quiz. Some tests describe chronotypes as animals: early-rising lions, late-blooming wolves, skittish dolphins or the most common type, bears, who tend to want to wake and sleep in line with the rising and setting of the sun. If you’re really serious, you could go for genetic testing.
Ultimately, it boils down to one simple question: if you had control of your day, with no caffeine or sedatives, when would you naturally wake up and fall asleep?
Can you change your chronotype?
Because our chronotype is genetically encoded, the short answer is: no. Of course, we’re very good at adapting to our circumstances in the short-term. When we wake up fatigued and lacking in energy we release a hormone called ghrelin that makes us hungry for foods that perk us up. However, when we chronically rely on instant energy from sugary foods, research reveals this is raising the risk of cardiovascular disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.
In our modern society, what is necessary to our survival is our ability to perform at work and be productive. When we get only six hours or less sleep per a night, it takes us 1.5 times longer to accomplish a task. In addition, our cognitive abilities are greatly reduced. So is living in circadian disharmony really working for us?
What about when your schedule and chronotype clash?
Businesses are increasingly getting wise to the impact of forcing all employees into standardised work hours, regardless of chronotype. Some companies that require shift work are beginning to change work patterns for more extreme chronotypes. And it’s getting easier to make the business case for flexible start times and working from home, as companies begin to realise that the time we spend away from work has a direct impact on what we do when we’re there. This could be as simple a change flexible working time arrangements - eg choosing your own core eight hours from 8am to 8pm instead of being constrained to the 9-5. So early birds can power through the mornings, winding down just as those who get a creative boost in the afternoon get started.
Not only does this mean productivity and staff health and wellbeing are likely to significantly improve, but 'open for business' hours can be extended globally: a real win-win situation.
No matter when you’re sleeping or waking, it’s key to give yourself the best opportunity for a good rest. So as you’re thinking about tweaking your schedule to work with your chronotype, don’t forget to give your bedroom the once over to make sure it’s as set up for quality snooze as it could be. We can help with that. Ahem.