Why Knowing Your Chronotype Will Make Night Shift Easier

Are you always late to work, as it takes you a while to get going after you wake up? Are you the type of person who seems to be way more productive when the suns setting? Is this part of your genetic makeup, or are there other factors at play? You might know about a bodies circadian rhythm, but have you heard about your chronotype? If not, we’re here to explain how knowing this could be a game changer when it comes to the type of shifts you work!

Your chronotype is your body’s natural sleep schedule. It dictates when you begin to feel sleepy and plays a huge role in productivity. As a shift worker, you need to understand your chronotype in order to be productive during your work hours – are you a Dolphin, Lion, Bear or Wolf?

Most people find it difficult to find a sleep schedule that aligns with their chronotype, which is why they find it difficult to get quality sleep. But as we are now a 24-hour and global society, you are no longer locked in to 9-5 work. So for a full understanding of what chronotype you fall under and how to use it to better your quality of life – keep reading!

What is a Chronotype?

We are all familiar with the terms early birds and night owls right? Well, your chronotype is what determines which category it is that you fall under exactly.

“Chronotype is the natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time, or what most people understand as being an early bird versus a night owl.

In addition to regulating sleep and wake times, chronotype has an influence on appetite, exercise, and core body temperature. It is responsible for the fact that you feel more alert at certain periods of the day and sleepier at others”

The Sleep Foundation

There are four different categories that we fall into under chronotypes:

  • dolphin
  • lion
  • bear
  • wolf

These chronotypes are named after these animals because each human sleep pattern mimics that of the animal’s sleep pattern in some way.

Chances are you’ve got a pretty good idea about your own sleep pattern and just don’t know which chronotype you exactly fall under.

The best way to find out which category suits you best and how to use it for productivity is to visit a sleep specialist. You’ll be given a short questionnaire that you need to answer honestly if you want accurate results. They may even go as far as giving you devices to wear while you sleep in order to get a better feel of what your body’s natural chronotype is.

There are also several highly recommended chronotype quizzes that can be easily googled that can give you a pretty accurate reading if you’re not interested in taking a trip to speak with someone!


Chronotype and Shift Work

Shift work is a very prevalent aspect that keeps our society running 24/7. Because there are businesses that need to be manned at all hours of the day, most of us who work at alternate times have found that our sleep schedules are off balance. Meaning most people who participate in shift work typically experience what is known as shift lag.

Working odd hours puts an individual at high risk of mental and physical health issues. But for certain people with a Chronotype that matches their working roster, this could be a good thing. Therefore, it’s essential that you are highly aware of which chronotype you fall under.

Lion, bear, wolf, dolphin

Studies have shown that shift workers are more prone to run into issues falling asleep and staying asleep. As a shift worker, it’s likely that the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep that you are getting is significantly lower than your counterparts. This can cause huge issues when it comes to your productivity when it’s working time.

That’s why knowing your Chronotype is important.

Knowing your chronotype allows you to know your body and helps you understand the natural sleep rhythm.

By doing the proper research, you’re able to determine which hours you sleep best and which hours you are most productive.

Knowing which category you fall under allows you to work with your chronotype instead of against it. Working against it is one of the main reasons that you feel overly exhausted throughout the work day when you got what you’d consider “decent” sleep the night before.

If you are new to this topic, let us provide you with some further context to the categories so you have a basic understanding. But as we mentioned earlier, it’s important to consult a professional to get a true indication of where you sit.


Did you know that when a dolphin sleeps, only half of its brain switches off? Therefore, using a dolphin to represent this chronotype is very fitting.

If you fall under this category, you represent a very small percentage of the population. The dolphin chronotype is only seen in about 10 per cent of the population, making it very rare.

As a dolphin, it probably takes you around 40 minutes to an hour to fall asleep. You’ll also find that you feel highly exhausted once you wake up and throughout the course of the day. It’ll normally be late in the evening before you hit your first big energy spurt. Overall, your sleep habits just aren’t great but at least you’re aware of it!

If you’re a dolphin, you’re more than likely highly sensitive to things going on around you while you’re sleeping – adding yet another reason as to why you aren’t getting quality sleep.

Per Psychology today, “There are biological reasons for Dolphins’ nighttime restlessness and agitation. It turns out that Dolphins have a circadian biology that is turned upside-down. In contrast to other chronotypes, Dolphins’ brain activity increases at night, in areas of the brain that promote alertness.” (source

This makes it very difficult for you to create a sleep schedule and stick to it because you never know what the night is going to look like for you. However, you do know that your daytime will consist of a sense of constant grogginess. 


Hello early risers!

As a lion chronotype, you have no issues waking up early in the mornings. You’ll typically wake up before the crack of dawn and will be ready and raring to start your day!

If you’re a lion then consider yourself lucky. Unlike the other chronotypes, you’re less likely to have any issues sleeping! You’re on your P’s and Q’s when it comes to your sleep and more than likely stick to the same sleep schedule every single day.

Once you are awake you’re suddenly hit with energy first thing in the morning and have no problems when it comes to getting the show on the road! You’re highly productive in the morning time and hit your peak within the early afternoon. So, make sure you’re getting what needs to be done during these hours because as the day begins to come to a close your productivity decreases rapidly.

Falling under the category of the lion chronotype comes with a lot of benefits, especially when talking about health. 

Psychology Today says that,

“Lions have a natural tendency for natural routine and moderation in their daily habits, and this shows in their overall health picture: Studies show that morning types with other bedtimes have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, less obesity, and may have lower risks for mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and others.

Lions leap into their days full of energy; the morning and early afternoon are when lions are at their most productive.”

Psychcology Today


A bear – the most common chronotype. It’s the most common because as a bear chronotype your sleep schedule is typically dictated by the rise and fall of the sun.

You’ll find yourself typically getting the exact number of recommended sleep hours, which is around 7-9 hours a night. So, you’ll likely fall asleep between ten-thirty and eleven at night and wake up between six-thirty and seven in the morning.

Once you’re up, you’re wide awake and ready to take on the day and your productivity begins to rise as the day progresses!

As a Bear chronotype, you’ll find that your maximum productivity hours occur from the time you wake up until around noon. After you have your lunch, you more than likely want to go into hibernation mode for a quick nap to cure the daytime sleepiness you experience. Without that nap, chances are you’re going to see a significant decrease in your productivity levels. So, make sure you’re getting as much work done as possible during those early morning hours.

As a bear chances are you’re not getting as much sleep as you should be throughout the week. In an article done by Psychology Today you’ll find that, “Bears are prone to inconsistency in their sleep routines. They often under-sleep during the workweek and sleep extra on the weekend to make up for their insufficient rest. Inconsistent sleep habits can put the bear circadian clock chronically out of sync.” (source)

If you’ve read/watches any of our other articles or videos that we have on our body’s circadian rhythm then you know that it can cause a sleuth of health issues, which are common among bear chronotypes.   


My night time people, this is where you come in!

The wolf chronotype is those who like to stay up all hours of the night and bare a highly inconsistent sleep schedule. Because of this, you’ll rarely see a wolf up during the early hours of the morning and if they are, they aren’t being very productive.

If you’re going to function during the morning time you’re going to need an extra boost of energy and chances are you’ll get it however you can!

Although you may not be productive during “normal business hours,” you’re still being highly productive throughout the nighttime.

What you consider a normal sleep schedule for yourself is not going to be the same as other people in your life. They’ll probably look at you like an alien when you try to explain it to them and that’s okay. Your sleep pattern isn’t for them just as their sleep pattern isn’t for you.

You’ll find that you have to force yourself out of bed between nine and ten in the morning and you do not enjoy doing so. If it were possible you’d sleep until late in the afternoons and probably do if you have nothing going on during the days that you don’t work.

As a wolf, it’ll be difficult for you to find a balance between the normality of day-to-day operations and the amount of sleep you get. Those hiring for night workers or those on a rotating roster... these people might be your calling!

Knowing your body’s natural chronotype is essential as it relates to not only your daily productivity but to your health as well. If you’re having issues with your sleep pattern and are feeling exhausted regardless of getting an appropriate amount of sleep – you’re likely doing the opposite of your natural sleep chronotype.

So, knowing what your chronotype is and how you can use that to better yourself can go a long way. Whether you’re a dolphin, a lion, a bear, or a wolf, we all need to sleep in order to survive. You don’t want to get sleep just because your body needs it, you want to get quality sleep in order to improve your quality of life.

Go to a specialist or take one of the hundreds of quizzes online and find out where you fall under the chronotype spectrum. Unfortunately, you can’t change your chronotype on your own. At least it’s never been heard of in the research we’ve completed.

However, as you get older your chronotype can shift itself on its own. So, if you are feeling discouraged about which chronotype you are falling under, don’t. It’s quite normal for it to change as you evolve as a person too!

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, here are a few of our favorite sleep aids to give you a leg up!

We love the Manta Eye Mask! Get your here
Dan wearing swannies reading
Blue Light Blocking glasses – See the entire range here


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Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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