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Everyone has heard of the sex drive, but few of us know we have a sleep drive, too — our biological need for some shuteye.
And just as some have a stronger sex drive than others, people’s sleep drive varies according to their personality and genetic inheritance or internal biological clock.
Our bodies and brains all run on our individual bio-time. Or at least that’s what they’re designed to do.
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People’s sleep drive varies according to their personality and genetic inheritance or internal biological clock
During my 15-plus years as a sleep doctor, I’ve seen hundreds of patients struggle with seemingly intractable sleep problems — and all the knock-on effects on relationships, careers and health — as a direct result of what I call chrono-misalignment, or the disruption of our personal biological clocks.
For 50,000 years we’ve kept perfect bio-time, but in the past 125, all the technological advances of modern life — artificial light, air travel, instant communication, caffeine — have knocked the natural rhythm of our biology horribly out of sync.
The good news is it doesn’t take much to get our clocks back on time. All it needs is just a few tweaks to our lifestyle and schedules — changing the hour we drink our first cup of coffee, for example; when we nap; when we have lunch and so on.
And that’s the beauty of it: you don’t have to overhaul your life entirely to reap the enormous benefits of a return to your correct bio-time — benefits that include losing weight, becoming more creative, solving problems, improving mood and, of course, getting a better night’s sleep.
The key is to know what time your biological clock runs on. Different people fall into different classifications, based on sleep drive, and require different tweaks.
Using all my clinical experience, I’ve identified four ‘Chronotypes’ and called them by the names of the animals that seem to share their sleep traits most closely. Take the quiz on the right to find which one you are and then read on to discover your perfect day.
Dolphins sleep with only half their brain at a time, while the other half is awake and alert
Dolphins sleep with only half their brain at a time, while the other half is awake and alert, concentrating on swimming and watching for predators. In humans, the dolphin chronotype is a light sleeper easily roused by slight sounds and disturbances. They have a low sleep drive and often suffer from anxiety-related insomnia.
Out of bed, dolphins tend to be nervous, irritable and perfectionist. They are often highly intelligent. They make caring, attentive partners and hate conflict, though at times they are so sleep-deprived they argue anyway.
With a naturally fast metabolism, dolphins are rarely overweight.
YOUR IDEAL DAY
6.30am: The typical dolphin is awake, but too tired to get up and too wired to go back to sleep. Start moving anyway: roll out of bed straight onto the floor and do some exercises.
7.30-9am: Eat a high-protein breakfast of eggs, bacon, yoghurt. Morning is the wrong time for dolphins to eat relaxing carbs, which will hit their system like a tranquilliser dart.
9.30am-12pm: Usually foggy-headed at this point, dolphins should have one coffee.
12-1pm: Dolphins often forget to eat lunch — they tend to be lean and wiry in body shape — but it’s not a good idea to skip meals. A soup and salad (one-third carbs, one-third protein, one third fat) will keep you on an even keel.
1-4pm: Dolphins often want to nap at this time, but hold off. Go for a walk instead.
4-6pm: You’re as alert as you’ve felt all day, so this is the time to do intellectual work or get stuck into a new project.
6-7pm: Don’t eat yet, no matter how hungry you feel. Dolphins’ hyperactive minds get increasingly restless as the night wears on: take 30 minutes quiet time alone to ward off anxious thoughts.
7.30pm-8pm: A time of high energy for dolphins, so eat calming carbs. Have a baked potato or a big bowl of pasta.
8-8.30pm: Have sex. Post-dinner, pre-bedtime sex is good for dolphins. Soothing physically, it also helps redefine what ‘bed’ means to you. Not a place of anxiety and dread as you try to fall asleep, but of love and fun.
8.30-11.30pm: Don’t be tempted to go to bed early to catch up on sleep. Watch TV or meet a friend for a glass of wine (but stop drinking by 9pm).
11.30pm: Bedtime. Try counting backward from 300 by threes and if you’re not asleep in 20 minutes, get up for 15 before trying again.
Dolphins’ low sleep drive means they need only six hours to wake up refreshed and restored.
Lions rise before dawn to hunt, while their prey is still sleepy, and the human equivalent also gets up before the sun
Lions rise before dawn to hunt, while their prey is still sleepy, and the human equivalent also gets up before the sun, bursting with early, purposeful energy. Lions are leaders. They have analytical, organised minds and are fixers rather than brooders.
Most CEOs and entrepreneurs are lions. They are conscientious and optimistic, but since they get up so early, they’re flagging in the evenings and tend to have poor social lives. Lions sometimes find it hard to meet other people. In general, they have healthy diets and are rarely overweight.
YOUR IDEAL DAY
5.30-6am: Lions are fully alert as soon as they wake. Eat breakfast and drink two glasses of water so your stomach is full.
6-7.30am: Don’t start your day yet but have sex instead. Morning testosterone in both men and women is highest within the first hour of waking and sexual desire is strongest.
7.30-10am: Conserve your energy so you’re not burned out by the end of the day. Snack now so you can push lunch back. Mid- morning to midday is your peak, when your mind is sharpest — power through some work.
12-1pm: Eat lunch, but avoid heavy carbs, which will make you sleepy. Go out into the sunlight.
1-5pm: Lions have been up for ten hours already and are starting to wilt. Stop trying to stay alert and instead let your mind wander. This is a good time to brainstorm new ideas.
5-6pm: Exercise. Switching gym-time from morning to evening will boost energy when you most need it.
6-7.30pm: Have dinner and one drink. Avoid carbs, which will make you even sleepier than you already are. No alcohol after 7.30pm or your body won’t be able to metabolise it before bed.
7-10pm: Lions typically hit a wall of tiredness now and crave their pillow. Live it up instead! If you’ve subtly shifted your exercise and eating schedules, you should gain an hour or two of social time in the evenings.
10.30pm-1.30am: Since you’re pushing your limits to stay up later than usual, you should fall into restorative sleep.
With their high sleep drives, bears prefer to sleep for at least eight hours a night, if not longer
Bears in the wild are active in the day and restful at night, and human bears’ sleep/wake patterns similarly match the solar cycle.
With their high sleep drives, bears prefer to sleep for at least eight hours a night, if not longer. They wake in a daze and start to feel sleepy again by mid-evening.
Bears may be hungry all the time and will snack whenever they can. They tend to be at least a little overweight.
They are gregarious, easy to talk to and open-minded. They make solid, affable colleagues, and loyal friends. Half of people fall into this category.
YOUR IDEAL DAY
7am: Typical bears hit the snooze button at least twice. Try not to. Instead, either have sex or take a quick walk round the block while still half-asleep — both are great ways to raise the heart rate and core body temperature.
7.30-9am: Don’t be afraid of a hearty breakfast but keep it protein-heavy and avoid carbs. No coffee yet for bears.
9-10am: Walk to work in the sun if you can. It helps eradicate that foggy feeling of sleep inertia.
10am-12pm: Your cognitive peak comes mid-morning. Don’t fritter mental sharpness by socialising — tackle difficult work now to get it done quickly. Have one coffee.
12-1pm: Bears tend to crave a big carb-rich lunch. Instead, do 30 minutes of gentle exercise before eating to speed up your metabolism — a walk is good. Lunch should be half the size of breakfast and twice the size of dinner.
1-2.50pm: Don’t eat a chocolate bar to boost flagging energy. If you can, take a power nap. Set an alarm so you don’t sleep longer than 20 minutes.
3-6pm: Now is the time to snack, but keep to 250 calories or less: cheese and crackers or fruit.
6-7pm: Bears want dinner at this hour, but instead they should exercise. As an outgoing, sociable type, play a team sport or go speed-walking with a friend.
7-8.30pm: Eating dinner an hour later than normal is a challenge, but you’re less likely to binge on junk food at 10pm. Don’t eat anything after 8pm and you’ll lose some of that bearish tummy fat.
8.30-10pm: Biological down-time. Take a hot bath, read, talk with the family.
10pm: Turn off screens. Have more sex. Don’t snack.
11pm: If you’ve been active all day, you should fall asleep quickly and soundly.
In nature, wolves come alive when the sun goes down, and the human wolf type does the same
In nature, wolves come alive when the sun goes down, and the human wolf type does the same. They have difficulty waking before 9am, are groggy until midday and don’t feel tired until midnight or later.
Wolves are risk-takers and tend to have a higher than average number of sexual partners in their lifetime. They’re likely to drink more than other chronotypes and to eat sugary, high-fat foods after dark. Not surprisingly they’re often overweight.
Fun at a party, they’re insightful and creative — but also more likely to suffer from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
YOUR IDEAL DAY
7-7.30am: Wolves find it very hard to wake up. Allow yourself two alarms with a 20-minute half-awake and drifting time in between. Don’t shower now.
7.30-8.30am: Wolves often skip breakfast, but you must eat now. Drink 12oz of water to quick-start your metabolism and keep the food protein-rich. No coffee! It will only make you jittery.
8.30-9pm: Move to dispel the chronic brain fog. A 30-minute walk is all it takes.
9-11am: The sleepy feeling disappears at 10am, but you’re still off-peak mentally. If you can, have sex mid-morning. But don’t sleep in, even at the weekend — it will wreck your bio-rhythm.
11am: Drink coffee. Keep it black and avoid biscuits.
1pm: Your mental sharpness is rising. Eat lunch with friends; you’ll be articulate and witty.
2-4pm: A wolf’s workday really starts now. For two hours after lunch, you’ll hit your stride and get lots done.
4-6pm: While dolphins, bears and lions flag, you are bursting with energy. Now is the time to impress the boss, tackle heavy housework or admin.
6-8pm: Exercise. Use your evening energy surge in the gym. It’s important not to eat dinner yet.
8-9pm: Dining on the late side will prevent night-time snacking.
9-11pm: You’ll be in the best mood all day, making it the perfect hour for sex.
11pm-12am: Power down. Switch off all screens. Showering or bathing at night not only buys you that drifting time in the morning, but will also help you fall asleep.
Midnight: Go to bed. A couple of weeks of following your new schedule, plus restricting coffee and alcohol, and you should be fast asleep by 12.30am.
ADAPTED by Alison Roberts from The Power Of When: The Best Time To Do Everything by Dr Michael Breus, published by Vermilion on Thursday at £12.99. © Michael Breus 2016. To order a copy at £10.39 (offer valid to September 26, 2016), please call 0844 571 0640 or visit mailbookshop.co.uk. PP free on orders over £15.
WHAT SLEEP ANIMAL ARE YOU? TAKE THE QUIZ
Circle ‘T’ if true or ‘F’ if false.
1. The slightest sound or light can keep me awake or wake me up. T or F
2. Food is not a great passion for me. T or F
3. I usually wake up before my alarm. T or F
4. I’m often irritable due to tiredness. T or F
5. I find that I worry a lot about small details. T or F
6. I have self-diagnosed or been diagnosed by a doctor as an insomniac. T or F
7. I lose sleep ruminating about the past and what might happen in the future. T or F
If you marked five or more Ts, you are a dolphin. Otherwise, continue on . . .
After each of the following multiple-choice options, you’ll find a number in brackets. Keep a tally of these numbers to get your score.
1. If you had nothing to do the next day and gave yourself permission to sleep in as long as you like, when would you wake up?
a. Before 6.30am (1)
b. 6.30am to 8.45am (2)
c. After 8.45am (3)
2. How do you experience jet lag?
a. You struggle with it, no matter what (1)
b. You usually adjust within 48 hours (2)
c. You adjust fast, especially when travelling west (3)
3. What’s your favourite meal? (Think time of day, not menu.)
a. Breakfast (1)
b. Lunch (2)
c. Dinner (3)
4. If you could choose any time of day to exercise, when would you do it?
a. Before 8am (1)
b. Between 8am and 4pm (2)
c. After 4pm (3)
5. When are you most alert?
a. One to two hours after waking up (1)
b. Two to four hours (2)
c. Four to six hours (3)
6. Do you consider yourself . . .
a. Left-brained — that is, strategic and analytical (1)
b. A balanced thinker (2)
c. Right-brained — that is, creative and insightful (3)
7. Do you nap?
a. Never (1)
b. Sometimes when it’s the weekend (2)
c. If you took a nap, you’d be up all night (3)
8. Regarding your overall health, which statement sounds most like you?
a. I make healthy choices almost all the time (1)
b. I make healthy choices sometimes (2)
c. I struggle to make healthy choices (3)
9. Do you consider yourself:
a. Future-oriented with plans and clear goals (1)
b. Informed by the past, hopeful about the future and aspiring to live in the moment (2)
c. Present-oriented — what feels good now (3)
10. When you wake up . . .
a. You’re bright-eyed (1)
b. You feel dazed (2)
c. You’re groggy, with eyelids made of cement (3)
Ten to 16: Lion. 17 to 23: Bear.
24 to 30: Wolf.