Everyone’s different when it comes to sleep. Some people sleep long hours, others less so. Some may enjoy a regular daytime nap (or naps), others never. People have their own sleep preferences and habits.
Sleep is a topic I frequently discuss with guests on my podcast, as we look together for ways to improve productivity, to help our minds and bodies to work in unison, and better manage our own physical and mental health.
This article explains how people belong to one of several sleep types. And the good news is that every sleep type is capable of being equally productive. No radical sleep overhaul is needed either.
The secret is to tweak your sleep/work schedule very slightly to make the most of your natural rhythms, to work with them and not against them. Read on to find out how.
Dr. Breus’ Sleep Types
The first step on the road to increased productivity is to recognize what kind of sleeper you are.
Sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus has used his extensive research and experience of working with insomnia patients to classify people into four distinct sleep types. These four types are named after the animal whose sleep pattern each person’s own sleep schedule is most likely to resemble:
The majority of people are ‘bear’ sleepers. Their natural rhythm follows the sun. They are at their best mid-morning but can be productive at most times during daylight hours. They maintain a fairly steady energy flow.
However, bears crucially need a recharge period mid-afternoon to stay productive later on.
Lions burst with energy first thing in the morning. By lunchtime, they have been hugely productive. Afterward, however, they tend to fizzle out early and are very tired in the evenings.
Wolves are quite the opposite. They’ll rise for the day long after everyone else, but their most productive hours will occur in the evening. They might also have an early flurry of energy around lunch, but their best hours are definitely when most others are retiring for the day.
Dolphins are light, fitful sleepers. They may have no particular pattern and struggle to get enough sleep. Their most productive hours are in the middle of the day.
Barriers to Productivity
All sleep types are productive, just at different times of the day.
If you are feeling unproductive, you are probably trying to be at your best at a time your mind and body are just not capable. Each of these sleep types has very different circadian rhythms. This is the term given to your body’s natural rhythm of hormone release. For instance, a wolf will experience a rush of sleep hormones far later than a lion.
Unfortunately, we can’t always compromise on our working hours as much as we’d like. Many of us do set nine to five jobs and some of us work in awkward shift patterns, even though these schedules might not naturally suit us. A standard typical working day is biased towards bears and lions. Dolphins and wolves will struggle with these hours.
The key is to tweak your sleep schedule a little and work as best you can using the knowledge of your natural rhythm.
How to Increase Your Productivity
● Ascertain your sleep type
Identify the animal sleep pattern you most closely align with and commit to working with your natural rhythm, not against it.
● Move your working day if possible
While many employers are getting better at allowing their workers to complete tasks flexibly or remotely, many will have little say in their working day. But if you think restructuring your working day may be possible, talk to your boss.
● Sleep in the right window
If you are a wolf, don’t go to bed too early because you think you should and because everyone else has gone to bed. You’ll either struggle to fall asleep or your sleep will be of poor quality in general.
If you are lion, don’t force yourself to stay awake through the evening either.
Most adults need around seven hours of sleep. With this and your sleep type in mind, set a sleep/wake schedule and stick to it. After a few days, you’ll get a feel for whether you need to tweak it by going to bed slightly earlier or later, or by adjusting your morning alarm.
Once you have a perfect sleep routine, try not to deviate from it, even during weekends.
● Tweak your working day
Now that you know your peak or most productive times, try to schedule your tasks to match them. So, for instance, you should try to assign important tasks such as crucial meetings and decision making to your most productive times, and assign more mundane tasks to times when you know you’ll appreciate having something less complicated to do.
● Tweak your breaks
At least one break during the working day is crucial for everybody. However, people with different sleep types should schedule their breaks differently. For instance, bears who experience a mid-afternoon lull should always take a break around this time. Whatever your sleep type, avoid taking lunch when during peak productivity periods.
Do something during your break that will help you recharge; eat an energy-boosting snack, take a walk and get some fresh air, perhaps.
● Schedule your chores and errands correctly
We all have tasks outside of work, and it’s important to do this at the right time. Try not to schedule chores and errands for a time you’d be better off resting.
For instance, lions could make the most of their early morning energy boost to do some laundry or pack lunches before the rest of their household wakes. This way, evenings are freer for relaxing and heading to bed on time. Bears, wolves and dolphins would be better off getting organized in the evenings, knowing they’ll be slower to start in the morning.
Pay Attention to Your Mind and Body
With this newfound knowledge of sleep types and a new, improved schedule, you should notice the difference to your productivity overall. However, still pay close attention to your body’s tiredness signals and your concentration levels. Keeping a journal to record your highs and lows may help you find patterns and make further tweaks to truly maximize your productivity.
For improved productivity, you also need to ensure you are eating healthily. Taking a natural supplement that can give an energy boost will help, too.
Dave Asprey is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee, host of the #1 health podcast, Bulletproof Radio, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Bulletproof Diet.” Through his work, the Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur provides information, techniques and keys to taking control of and improving your biochemistry, your body and your mind so they work in unison, helping you execute at levels far beyond what you’d expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control your decisions.