I had a 'sleep doctor' tell me how to structure my entire day - and I've never felt more energized
There's something weirdly satisfying about knowing what time someone else wakes up, what time they eat an apple, and how long they wait between eating the apple and working out - especially if that someone is famous and successful.
Forget working hard and displaying grit - I'm going to eat an apple every day at 4 p.m. and be famous and successful, too! It's the ultimate life hack.
And so when I heard about Dr. Michael Breus' new book, "The Power of When," in which he helps readers figure out their biological predisposition to be a morning person, evening person, or somewhere in between, and then figure out their ideal daily routine based on that predisposition, I was intrigued.
Breus is a clinical psychologist and sleep expert; he calls himself the "sleep doctor." When we spoke by phone in July - Breus has a practice in Los Angeles - he told me that he first started researching this topic when he noticed that his treatments for insomnia weren't working on a select group of his patients.
"What I realized," he said, "is that my patients didn't have insomnia - it turns out they were night owls. At least some of them, anyway."
On weekends and vacations, Breus said, these night owls would stay up until about 1 a.m. and wake up around 8 or 9 a.m. the next day. They'd feel great. But come Monday, they'd start feeling lousy again.
"I realized that their internal chronorhythm had shifted," Breus said, using the scientific term for your body's internal clock.
That realization prompted Breus to consider whether there were other groups of people who weren't simply insomniacs - but who were struggling because their chronorhythms were different from most people's.
Research led Breus to come up with four chronotypes - or four types of preferences for morningness and eveningness.
Breus isn't the first person to study - or write a book about - the science of chronotypes. Most notably, in 2012, the German chronobiologist Till Roenneberg published "Internal Time," in which he popularized the term "social jet lag" to describe the difference between people's sleep schedules on workdays and free days, a.k.a. the difference between how they'd like to structure their days and how they have to structure their days in order not to lose their jobs and friends.
In "The Power of When," Breus makes this research accessible by helping readers figure out which "animal" they are: bear, wolf, lion, or dolphin. (You can also take a diagnostic quiz on his website.) Each animal corresponds to a different chronotype.
About 10% of the population are dolphins: light sleepers, who frequently get diagnosed with insomnia. Another 15 to 20% are lions: classic morning people. Still another 15 to 20% are wolves, who prefer staying up late.
I, as it turns out, am a bear, a chronotype Breus says I share with about half the general population. That means I'm generally a good sleeper; my internal body clock tracks the rise and fall of the sun.
Breus agreed to help me create a daily routine fit for a bear - one that would leave me less tired and more productive than I am now. Over the past two months I've been trying to adopt this new schedule and documenting the effects.
Here's the daily routine Breus outlined for me - and what happened when I tried to follow it. Keep in mind that this schedule won't work for everyone, especially if you have a different chronotype.