Sleep or Die! My top 13 ways to sleep better. Part 2 of 6: When to Sleep

By:  Dr. David Lee, Chiropractor, Life / Health / Peak Performance Coach

There are many theories and studies on the subject of when is the ideal time to sleep.  I have studied several of these as I have always tried to optimize my sleep as best as possible.  Most people believe that as long as you sleep enough, then when you sleep shouldn’t matter.  I and many other people couldn’t disagree with this more.  When you sleep matters, as it can drastically affect the quality of your sleep.

Point 4: When you should sleep

Chronotype Theory

One of the more detailed theories of when you should sleep is by the Dr. Michael J. Breus with the website thesleepdoctor.com.  He has written a book called the power of when and you can even go online and take a quiz at thepowerofwhenquiz.com to figure out what Chronotype you are.

As you can see in the illustration below there are 4 sleep Chronotypes which I will summary below:

Bear

The Bear is without question the most common Chronotype which technically makes up about half of us.  The Bear gets up and goes down the same as the sun.  The typically schedule for a Bear is to sleep around 10 pm, and be up around 6-7 am.

Wolf

The Wolf is the second most common type making up about 15-20% of us.  The Wolf is the night owl, late to bed, late to rise.  The Wolf hates the mornings, and has a second gear in the evenings.

Lion

The Lion is the next common type making up about 10-20% of us.  The Lion is the early to bed, early to rise individual, thrives before the sun is up, gets more done in the day before most of us even wake up!  The Lion hates late nights at is torturous for them to go to late night events.

Dolphin

The Dolphin is irregular with both sleeping and waking, all over the map.  There is no set schedule, rhyme or reason for the Dolphin.  The Dolphin is the insomniac, who is a light sleeper and struggles with sleep in general.

My Experience

I think this Chronotype test is useful and is an interesting theory.  However, while I do believe some of us have some different cycles and rhythms, in general I believe that most of us are, and should be Bears.

I originally thought that I was a Wolf.  I would get a second wind when the sun went down, and could be up all night.  I hated mornings, and it would take me several hours to finally wake up, and even longer to shake off the groggy feeling and actually be alert and productive.  I tried my best over many years to be a morning person, but wasn’t able to do so, and found it torturous every time I would try to wake up early.

Now I am more of a Bear.  I used to make fun of people who slept before 10!  Called them party poopers, and no fun at night when all the action is.  Now I’m the guy I made fun of, in bed sleeping around 10 most nights.

Since I have done this, my life has changed drastically.  My energy, recovery, productivity, health, has significantly improved since I started this new schedule.  At first, I was unable to sleep early, I just couldn’t.  After I changed my lifestyle, with food, drinks (see my previous post), as well as many other sleep hygiene things (to come in the next few posts), I now long to sleep early, and am fully refreshed and energized when I wake up (at least most days).

Ancestral living theory

One of the main sleep theories ties to ancestral living, which many people (including myself) believe is the optimal way to live.  Basically, life the way humans have lived since the beginning of time, before the industrial revolution, the way that God intended for us to live.  In ancestral living, people had no choice but to sleep when the sun went down, and get up as it came up, as there were no other forms of light other than fire.  This ties into the Bear chronotype, which I believe most of us actually are with the right circumstances, and should be.

The other reason I believe most of us should be Bears ties into our cycles of sleep.  There are a few cycles in our sleep from deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep.  The most restorative type of sleep is deep sleep.  Deep sleep is also when a lot of your recovery happens, and more importantly when most of your hormones replenish and restore.  Balancing your hormones is one of the most important things to monitor as they are the control panel of your health and vitality and your best chance of optimizing this is to sleep early.  Some theories believe that the ideal time for your hormones to replenish is during the hours of 10 to 12 pm.

Summary

While others may disagree with me, I believe that one of the keys to getting great quality sleep for the clear majority of us is to sleep early.  Does this mean that I never go out at night, avoid all late-night parties and events?  No not at all.  I enjoy late night events just as much as the next person, and can still have fun all night long.  While I’m clearly aware of what optimal living is, I am not super militant about anything.  I will definitely go out and enjoy a great late-night party once in a while.  However, if my lifestyle dictates that I’m out, or up late night on a regular basis, then as my post indicates, you need to sleep or die!  Very slowly of course, but your overall health and vitality will drastically decline if you cannot get to bed at the ideal hour. 

Stay tuned!!!

Much, much more on sleep to come as I still have to go through points 5-13 over the next several months.  Make sleep your top priority.  It’s simple, if you want a great healthy life, this cannot happen without great quality sleep.  Stay tuned!!!

If you have any questions on anything I have discussed above, feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.

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