Sleep Chronotypes: Lions, Wolves, and Bears (and Dolphins) OH MY!

Sleep is essential for optimal functioning and impacts our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It is the ultimate deciding factor for how well we balance productivity and burnout.
Have you ever noticed you prefer to do certain things at certain times of the day? Is there a period of time when no matter how hard you try or how much caffeine you have, you can’t get your work finished? Do you hop out of bed ready to take on the world while your partner struggles to get going for the first two hours? This is because we each have what is called a sleep chronotype that are predetermined by our biology.
The better we understand our sleep chronotype, the better we can make decisions about when we sit down to get busy with work, engage in our cherished creative outlets, spend time with loved ones, or take time to rest and reset. This allows us to optimize our productivity and channel our energy to live our lives as fully within our values as we can.
So, what is your sleep chronotype?

  • Lions are morning types.
  • Bears are middle of the road types (this is 50% of the population).
  • Wolves are nighttime types.
  • Dolphins are difficult sleepers.

To discover your individual chronotype, visit

Once you better understand your sleep chronotype, you can harness that knowledge and structure your day and schedule to boost energy throughout the day! This might require pausing to reflect on your values, considering if your actions are in alignment with those values, and setting new boundaries in your careers or with loved ones.
What is even more important than the amount of sleep you get is the consistency of sleep you get. Experts indicate choosing a consistent wake up time is the healthiest decision you can make to help best regulate your biological cycles. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a board-certified sleep specialist, suggests using a calculated rhythm to determine what time to go to bed using your target wakeup time and your sleep chronotype. He suggests taking the number of sleep cycles based on typical chronotypes and subtracting it from the target wake-up time.

For example, in his book, The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype—and The Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More, he shares, “If the average sleep cycle is 90 min long (for most chronotypes) let’s look at each chronotype for the number of average cycles. It appears to fall into two categories: Lions and Bears tend to get five cycles, while Wolves and Dolphins tend to get four cycles.” He then demonstrates this calculation to determine bedtime:

Bio-Time Bedtime for Lions and Bears:

  • Lions: Usually 5 cycles x 90 min = 450 min + 20 min to fall asleep = 470 min
  • Bears: Usually 5 cycles x 90 min = 450 min + 20 min to fall asleep = 470 min
  • Lions: up at 6:00am – 470 min = 10:10 pm
  • Bears: up at 7:00am – 470 min = 11:10 pm

Bio-Time Bedtime for Wolves and Dolphins:

  • Wolves: Usually 4 cycles x 90 min = 360 min + 40 min to fall asleep = 400 min
  • Dolphins: Usually 4 cycles x 90 min = 360 min + 40 min to fall asleep = 400 min
  • Wolves: up at 7:00am – 400 min = 12:00 am
  • Dolphins: up at 6:30am – 400 min = 11:50 pm

While as psychologists we are the first to acknowledge that each person is different and may not fit squarely into one category, these chronotypes serves as general guidelines of how to maximize your time, energy, and efficiency. During a time where burn out feels ever-present, sleep is one of the hottest tickets back to yourself. So, decide, today, to make sleep a priority, your body, your mind, and your productivity will thank you for it! Embrace that inner animal and let it lead you to a fuller, more energy-filled daily life.

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