Unlocking Your Body Clock: Understanding Chronotypes for Optimal Health, Energy and Performance

Have you ever wondered why your productivity peaks in the early morning while your partner thrives in the late hours of the night? Or why you can effortlessly rise with the sun, while others hit the snooze button repeatedly? In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s easy to underestimate the significance of our internal body clock, known as our chronotype. This intrinsic rhythm determines when we feel most alert, productive, and when our bodies are naturally inclined to rest. Understanding your chronotype can be a game-changer in achieving optimal health and performance.

Chronotype and Circadian Rhythms

One of the most important biological rhythms is the shift between day and night. This is the most significant biorhythm for all organic life forms and is known as the circadian rhythm. This sets the pace for other biological processes that occur at regular intervals throughout this daily cycle.

In the daily rhythm of our bodies, called the circadian cycle, we follow a 24-hour beat, like a big internal clock. In this rhythmic flow, our unique chronotype plays a key role – whether we’re early birds, go-with-the-flow types, or night owls. Think of understanding our chronotype as finding our personal tune within this daily rhythm, deciding when we’re most alert, active, or ready to rest.

Body Clock

What Are Chronotypes: More Than Just Sleep Patterns

In essence, a chronotype is your body’s master internal clock, governing your natural sleep and wake tendencies based on the circadian rhythm. Chronotypes are natural preferences of the body for wakefulness and sleep. It is your body’s master internal clock, influenced by genetics and driven by your circadian rhythm.

While it may seem straightforward, humans are diverse, each genetically predisposed to function optimally at different times of the day. It goes beyond being an early bird or a night owl; it’s a blueprint for your entire daily life. When you align with your natural chronotype, you can improve your sleep quality, energy, performance and mood.

Why Knowing Your Chronotype Matters

Your chronotype impacts more than just your sleep preferences; it orchestrates your hunger, metabolism, immunity, creativity, and even core temperature. Recognising your chronotype is pivotal in optimising your daily activities. It can help you determine the ideal time to sleep, eat, and exercise to organising your workday. It serves as a guide for harmonising your life optimally with your body’s natural rhythm in this 24 hour circadian cycle. When we are in sync with this rhythm and our chronotype, it makes like so much easier from digesting food, to energy, focus and even balancing our hormones.

Benefits of Knowing Your Chronotype

Knowing your chronotype is like having a personalised roadmap for your day. It helps you schedule tasks when your energy levels are naturally high and plan rest during low-energy periods.

    • Improved Productivity: Aligning your tasks with your natural energy peaks enhances your productivity. Morning people (Larks) might find they accomplish more earlier, while Night Owls may shine later in the day.

    • Enhanced Sleep Quality: Your chronotype can tell you your optimal bedtime, ensuring you get restorative deep sleep. Following this rhythm can alleviate sleep-related issues.

    • Circadian Harmony: Aligning your daily activities with your chronotype promotes harmony with your body’s natural rhythm, positively impacting various aspects of health, including digestion and immunity.

    • Enhanced Well-being: Recognising when you naturally feel alert and focused allows you to plan tasks requiring mental effort during these times, contributing to better mental health.

    • Understanding your chronotype helps navigate social engagements. If you’re a Night Owl in a country known for its vibrant pub culture, adapting your schedule can enhance your social life.

    • Social Life: Your chronotype influences when you’re naturally more sociable. Knowing this allows you to plan social events when you’re at your energetic peak, ensuring more enjoyable interactions.

    • Energy Levels: Working with your chronotype ensures a consistent energy flow throughout the day, reducing the likelihood of energy crashes.

The Ayurvedic Clock and Chronotypes

In Ayurveda, it is believed that there is an ‘energy clock’, that is, our levels of energy are in synch with time of day and there is an optimal time of day for different activities. The concept of the Ayurvedic Clock is similar to that of the biological clock or body clock.

Sleep and the Ayurvedic clock are determined by the three doshas; kapha, pitta, vata. There are 3 elements present in the 3 doshas; water, fire, and air. At different times of the day, these different elements are present which creates certain energies.

Understanding this holistic approach provides a deeper insight into how our body’s energy aligns with our chronotype.

The Three Chronotypes: Sunrise, Daylight, and Nightsky

Everyone has an inherent chronotype, but research shows that chronotypes change with age. A teenager tends to be a night owl and by the time they reach young adulthood, it shifts to morning larks or sunrise and eventually settling to your inherent chronotype as you age.

    1. Sunrise Chronotype: Early birds who thrive in the morning, with energy levels declining in the evening. They usually wake up between 5:30am and 6am.

    1. Daylight Chronotype: According to Dr. Breus, this chronotype which he refers to as the bear chronotype, makes up about 55% of the population. They are flexible and can adapt easily to sun rise and sun set. They usually wake up between 7am – 8am.

    1. Nightsky Chronotype: Night owls who go to bed later, making up approximately 15% of the population, often experiencing “social-jet lag” due to misalignment with societal schedules.

Discovery of Chronotypes

A French Geophysicists and astronomer, Jean Jacques d’Otous de Mairan, in the 1800’s observed how a plants leaves opened and closed according to day and night. But he experimented on this and was able to show that the leaves continue to open and close in a rhythm even when he put the plant in a closed closet where it was dark. Chronobiology is the study of living organisms and their adaptation to solar (daytime) and lunar (nighttime) rhythms.

Origin of Chronotypes

The evolution of chronotypes in nature is a result of environmental factors, genetic adaptations, and survival strategies. The diversity in chronotypes within a population may have provided a survival advantage for the entire community. Having individuals with different sleep-wake patterns would ensure that there was continuous coverage and protection during both day and night. Night owls would protect against night time predators. Coordination of activities like hunting, foraging, or protection for the overall tribe or community.

Sleep Schedule: Deep Sleep and REM Sleep

Sleep hygiene and good sleep habits are key to a good night’s sleep regardless of your chronotype. The process is the same the only difference is timing and knowing your sleep window is important. Missing your ideal sleep window can affect how long it takes you to fall asleep and reduce deep sleep, potentially robbing time from your REM sleep. When you don’t get enough deep sleep, you will not feel rested the next day. Understanding your body’s core temperature is also important in deep sleep and REM sleep, allows you to regulate it effectively for optimal sleep overall.

Incorporating practices like meditation, yoga, or journaling can create an optimal environment for winding down and restorative sleep.

Developing Your Daily Routine

While you can’t change your chronotype, adapting your lifestyle to align with it is crucial. Getting out into the daylight, exercising, and keeping your sleep environment cool, quiet, and dark, listening to what your body is telling you is incredibly important. If your body is telling you to go to sleep at 9 p.m., then do it. If it feels better to go to sleep at midnight and wake later in the morning, then do that. This is your natural rhythm.

Societal Start Times

The general consensus among researchers and sleep experts is that societal start times, especially in work and education, often do not align with the natural chronotypes of individuals. This misalignment can be challenging for night owls who may struggle with early morning obligations.

Many societies and workplaces have traditional schedules that favour early risers. This misalignment can lead to what’s often termed as “social jet lag,” where individuals with night owl tendencies may experience fatigue and decreased performance due to the mismatch between their internal clock and societal expectations. Individuals who operate against their natural chronotype can have negative effects on cognitive performance, mood, and overall well-being. It’s essential to recognise that chronotypes can vary individually, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable. However, providing options and flexibility in start times could accommodate different chronotypes. In recent times, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of flexibility in work schedules. Some companies and educational institutions are exploring or implementing policies that allow employees or students to choose more personalised work hours.


Understanding and aligning with your unique rhythm allows you to optimise your sleep, energy, and how you feel. Understanding your chronotype is a valuable tool in optimising your daily routine, improving energy levels, and enhancing overall health and performance. By aligning your activities with your body’s natural rhythm, you can unlock the potential for a more fulfilling and optimal life helping you get more done in less time with less stress. So, embrace your chronotype, follow your body’s natural clock, and show up every day at your very best.


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