What Is Your Sleep Chronotype, and Why Does It Matter?

By Melissa Blake, ND

Chronotypes are natural preferences of the body for wakefulness and sleep.1 Identifying your unique sleep chronotype can provide insights into the reasons behind insufficient sleep.

Getting quality sleep is crucial for our overall health and wellbeing. Without it, we're more likely to feel tired, drained, and just wanting to crawl back into bed. And it's not just about feeling groggy – lack of quality sleep can lead to more serious health issues like weight gain and heart problems.2 In fact, studies show that people who consistently sleep six hours or less per night are almost twice as likely to be overweight compared to those who get seven hours or more of sleep.3

So, if sleep is so important, why is it such a struggle for many of us? It may have something to do with your sleep chronotype.

What are the sleep chronotypes?

Sleep chronotypes can differ among people based on genetics, age, and other health and environmental factors. To determine your chronotype, you’ll need to consider your sleeping preferences, energy levels throughout the day, meal timing, and other aspects of your circadian rhythm.1 Your chronotype impacts your daily patterns: how alert you feel during the day, how often you fall asleep on movie night, whether you consider yourself part of the 5 AM club, and even how well you perform at work!

There are four basic sleep chronotypes:1

Lion: Lions make up about 15% of the population. They are early risers, perform mentally and physically at their best in the morning hours, and go to bed early in the evening. However, they may have trouble maintaining a social life in the evening.

Bear: Bears make up about 55% of the population.3 People with this intermediate chronotype tend to align their schedule with the sun. They do great with traditional office hours and effortlessly maintain an active social life in the evenings.

Wolf: Wolves make up about 15% of the population. They stay up late at night, rise later in the morning, and perform best mentally and physically in the late afternoon or evening.

Dolphin: Dolphins make up about 10% of the population. They seem to stay alert even while sleeping. Dolphins are best described as insomniacs.

It’s not just genetics that determine your sleep chronotype. Environmental influences also play a role. It is even suggested that geographical location may influence chronotype due to variations in daylight hours. The solar clock, providing exposure to heat and light, is the most significant environmental influence on sleep/wake rhythms.4 Your responsiveness to these signals determines whether you identify as a morning person. Additionally, your chronotype is influenced by factors such as artificial light, shift work, nightcaps, and exercise habits.4

Understand your sleep chronotype by tracking patterns

The best way to determine your chronotype is by tracking your patterns and identifying trends. The more you know about how your body responds and what it likes, the more insight you’ll have into what you can do to improve your health when it gets off track. Data doesn’t lie. Once you’ve identified patterns, you can adjust your habits.

There are many wearables and apps that can support sleep tracking. You can also use a sleep journal. The following table provides an example of how you can capture insights into your sleep patterns.

Sleep pattern table (click to enlarge)
Table 1: Click to enlarge.

After two weeks have passed, look at the data to see if there are any patterns that emerge. If not, track a little longer until they do. What do you notice? Is your bedtime consistent? Does alcohol, exercise, or caffeine influence how quickly you fall asleep or how rested you feel the next day? What changes can you make, even with just shifts of 15 or 30 minutes, to optimize your unique sleep style?

Watch out for circadian disruptions

Circadian disruption, also known as social jetlag, occurs when a person’s natural sleep tendencies or chronotype are not in line with his or her lifestyle. Work responsibilities, light exposure at night, shift work, “all-nighters,” routines that change on weekends, caffeine intake, intense exercise, and time zone all influence sleep cycles and can contribute to a disruption in natural rhythm.5

Adjust your sleep schedule and patterns for a better quality of life

The ideal situation is aligning the solar, biological, and social clocks in our favor.4 Adjustments in your schedule can lead to big payoffs. Consider these tips to get aligned with a sleep schedule that works for you:

  • If you're constantly hitting the snooze button, try adjusting your day by 15-30 minutes. It'll give your body that extra precious time in the morning. This small change can boost your wellbeing and set a positive tone for the day ahead.
  • Schedule heavy work before noon if you feel your best in the early-morning hours and avoid evening meetings when possible.
  • If you get a burst of energy after exercise, schedule physical activity several hours before bed so you don’t disrupt your sleep.
  • Delay sleep time by 30 minutes if you struggle to fall asleep quickly at night.

Your sleep chronotype, naturally, is not a fixed characteristic. It can evolve over time due to factors such as age, stress, and time zones, exerting an impact on your sleep patterns.4 Even a 30-minute shift in sleep and wake times can make a difference. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to different approaches to sleep.

A personalized approach to optimal sleep

Sleep is crucial for our health and wellbeing. Understanding our own patterns and habits helps us make necessary adjustments. While there are still unanswered questions about sleep chronotypes and their health implications, one thing is clear: we all have different schedules. These differences may be written into our DNA and knowing more about our body's needs can help us be our best selves. Track habits, identify trends, and take positive steps towards better health, including quality sleep.

Metagenics offers a variety of products to support restful sleep:

  1. Formulas for occasional sleeplessness: MetaRelax, Tran-Q Sleep™
  2. Formulas to help you fall and stay asleep: MetaSleep™

This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues. For more information on sleep and general wellness topics, please visit the Metagenics blog.


  1. Sleep Foundation. “Chronotypes.” Sleep Foundation, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/chronotypes.
  2. McMahon, D. M., et al. “Relationships between chronotype, social jetlag, sleep, obesity and blood pressure in healthy young adults.” Chronobiol Int, vol. 36, no. 4, 2019, pp. 493-509.
  3. Antza, C., et al. “The links between sleep duration, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.” J Endocrinol, vol. 252, no. 2, 2021, pp. 125-141.
  4. Roenneberg, T., et al. “Life between clocks: daily temporal patterns of human chronotypes.” J Biol Rhythms, vol. 18, no. 1, 2003, pp. 80-90.
  5. Taillard, J., et al. “Sleep timing, chronotype and social jetlag: Impact on cognitive abilities and psychiatric disorders.” Biochem Pharmacol, vol. 191, 2021, 114438.

Melissa Blake, ND
Melissa Blake, ND obtained her naturopathic medical training from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. Dr. Blake has over 10 years of clinical experience. She takes a personalized approach in her clinical care that involves finding the root cause of disease with a strong emphasis on mindfulness and research-based natural therapies. In 2019, she transitioned to a part-time, virtual practice, a change that accelerated her interest in the impact of digital technologies in healthcare. In her current role at Metagenics as a Product Manager, Dr. Blake works with an amazing team of talented individuals, creating digital solutions that increase access and support adherence so that both patient and practitioner achieve the best possible results.

In her spare time, she enjoys having fun with her family, being in nature, playing piano, and studying for a master's degree in counselling psychology.

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