Sleep Is Essential for Clear Thinking. Here's How to Make Sure You Get Enough.

Set yourself up for ultimate productivity by understanding (and honoring) your chronotype.



Person sleeping under blankets

Understand Your Chronotype

There are two very different types of people in life: night owls and early risers. Everyone tends to wake up and fall asleep at different times—and, therefore, has different times of peak productivity

Your biological rhythm is known as your chronotype.

Specifically, your chronotype is your behavioral schedule set around underlying circadian rhythms. 

Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, writes that our brains change significantly throughout the day between peak and low-performance times. Knowing your chronotype helps you choose optimal times for various activities.

Chronotype Factors

Pink writes that these peak times influence both physiology and psychology. He uses the image of owls and larks, writing, 

The Edisons among us are late chronotypes. They wake long after sunrise, detest mornings, and don't begin peaking until late afternoon or early evening. Others of us are early chronotypes. They rise easily and feel energized during the day but wear out by evening.

For example, you might write better in the morning and exercise at night. Or maybe you can't imagine hitting the gym after 4 pm, yet find the ideal time to work on your novel around 8 pm.

Chronotypes aren't limited to choice. As Pink writes, genetics make up at least half of their role. People born in fall and winter tend to be larks, he writes, while those born in spring and summer are more likely to be owls. 

Age is another relevant factor. Teenagers tend to need more sleep, and tend to sleep in later—Pink writes that school start times are too early to honor the natural circadian rhythms of high schoolers. 

Gender differences also come into play, with men tending to be owls and women larks. That changes around the age of 50, however. 

Armed with this knowledge, you can better understand the schedule that works best for you.

Man hiking on rock at sunrise

Schedule Sleep Sessions

To figure out your chronotype, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • If you had complete control of your schedule, what time would you wake up?
  • What time would you go to sleep?
  • What is your midpoint of sleep? (If you go to bed at midnight and wake up at 8 am, your midpoint is 4 am.)

If your sleep midpoint is before 3:30 am, you're probably most productive in the morning. If your sleep midpoint is after 5:30 am, your most productive hours are likely in the evening. Those whose sleep midpoint is between 3:30 am and 5:30 am are most productive in the middle of the day.

About 80% of us hit our peak early in the day, when we're most focused, least distracted, and likely in a good mood. Take this time for writing, critical thinking, or strategizing.

Early to mid-afternoon is when our performance starts to dwindle. Our attention, creativity, and mood fall off. You can use this time to complete simpler tasks such as returning emails or updating your calendar.

We begin to recover from the day and relax during the late afternoon or evening. During this time our mood picks up, but not necessarily our performance. This could be a good time for creative thinking. Read a book or do some journaling for reflection.

Once you figure out your chronotype, set yourself up for success by scheduling your Most Important Tasks during peak performance times. Being mindful of the way your body and mind function is key to figuring out your ideal time to Flow.