Last week, I discussed the concept of chronotypes – what they are and why they are important – for both you and your baby! This week we’re chatting about what are the four sleep chronotypes. This will help you easily figure out which sleep chronotype your baby is. And hopefully make bedtime a little smoother than it has been!
The Four Sleep Chronotypes
Michael Breus describes 4 different chronotypes in his book – The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype. If you are a reader, I highly recommend this one! He describes each chronotype in detail from their sleep-wake preference, to their personality traits, and even the best times to eat and exercise.
I have also read various blogs that disseminate these basic sleep chronotypes for babies into the “cub” or “pup” versions which are perfect for our babies and young children. This blog will cover the basics related to babies and sleep.
The following descriptions are just scratching the surface of the 4 chronotypes. See which sleep chronotype best fits your baby, child or yourself and use that as a starting point.
They form the majority of the population, about 50%. This group tends to follow the rhythm of the sun. As adults, bears prefer to a wake-up around 7 am and go to bed around 10-11 pm. This schedule is more closely related to our natural daytime rhythms and our Western culture’s daily habits of a 9-5 workday. Bears also love to nap and enjoy making up for missed sleep on the weekends. Bears are pretty social and love to talk, making friends quickly. They do best with a good breakfast to start the day.
Bear cubs (aka our babies) tend to have higher sleep needs, enjoy naps, and thrive on regularity, usually not doing too well with accepting change. They do best with a consistent wake up time in the morning and bedtime routine at night. Aim for something around a 7-7:30am wake up time and a 7:30-8:30pm bedtime. Bear cubs tend to do best with an earlier bedtime. Sometimes you will also notice an energy peak between 11am-2pm (right when you want your toddler to be napping) so make sure to play around with nap time a bit to see what works best for your little one.
Lions are the early birds (also called larks) and make up about 15-20% of the population. They are definitely morning people, and often wake up while it is still dark outside, around 5:00 AM – 6:00 AM (sound familiar? Yes, most babies and toddlers are lions/larks initially).
Lion cubs tend to wake up early and easily, ready to start the day (and already quite active). Since you are likely not ready to start your day between 5-6am (remember, we are mostly bears), I highly suggest starting to teach your toddler to play or read quietly (either in their room or yours) while you are resting/sleeping in bed. This takes time and patience (and yes, some mornings of getting up early to get them set up and keep them busy) but with consistency it will pay off!
My 8 year old has been playing by himself in the mornings since he was 16 months old! Lions typically have their burst of energy earlier in the day, are at their best around 10-11am, and then their energy drops drastically around 3-4pm. This is when another burst of physical activity should be offered so they can make it to bedtime! Lion cubs are usually ready for bed by 6-7:30pm (depending on the age of your baby and their nap timings).
Dophins are the more ‘rare’ chronotype and represent the smallest portion of the population – only about 10-12%. Dolphins are usually perfectionists and often very intelligent. They are very light sleepers, are hypersensitive and have more anxious tendencies. They also have a harder time falling asleep, often being described as introverted insomniacs. Now, I know what you are thinking “my baby is such a light sleeper and wakes at every noise”. To be honest, this is quite normal for babies and toddlers and does not necessarily mean they are of a dolphin chronotype (more likely they are the lion/lark).
Dolphins calves are usually easily disturbed by nighttime wakes or nightmares, and waking up in the morning may be a bit difficult depending on the night, but they usually regain energy quickly. They may need a longer wind down time and perhaps more connection and a chance to talk out their day as toddlers and young children. Dolphin calves tend to be lower sleep total kids, needing less sleep than the average ‘bear’ or ‘lion’ cub.
Best to also pay attention to their naps, because if they are too long this will affect the quality (and length) of their night sleep. Dolphin calves tend to be the kids who need to ‘talk things out’ and ask a lot of questions. Planning in time for them to talk about their day before bed can help them ease into a deeper sleep. And of course, consistency is key with this group as well! The consistency and regularity will help ease anxieties. Dolphin calves tend to do best with a 7-7:30am wake up and an 8-8:30pm bedtime.
Finally, the wolves (or night owls) who make up about 15-20% of the population. Wolves are nocturnal and go to sleep late at night, after dark. They wake up later in the morning, after the run rises. Often they are slower to start in the mornings. Wolves are naturally creative and passionate about artistic activities and expression. Wolves tend to be introverted and definitely love their alone time, but they also love to be active (usually later in the day).
Wolf pups are often very active after 3-4 pm and tend to be better with activities later in the day – so save your errands for the afternoon! Wolf pups go to sleep later in the evening, closer to 8:30-9:30pm. They are also much harder to wake in the morning and tend to require a more gentle wake up routine to ease them into the day. So plan for this by perhaps going in a little earlier to wake them up and give them time to ease into the day. Going outside early in the day can be helpful in waking the wolf pup up more fully. Since their energy peaks later in the day, it is a good idea to offer some intense physical activity around 4:30-5:30pm to help tire them out so they can fall asleep more easily.
Which Sleep Chronotypy Is Your Baby?
Now that you have read about the four sleep chronotypes, which one are you? Which sleep chronotype is your baby or child? Has learning about these different chronotypes shed some light on your baby and their specific sleep habits? Now you understand why we can’t make ‘sleep schedules’ based on age, or even expect our babies to sleep 7am-7pm – we might be working against their chronotype!
Let’s continue this conversation inside my free group Sleep Deprived Mama’s Holistic + Heart Centered Support. Let’s learn things together! I’m here to support you!, mamas!