I have always been a diva when it comes to sleep. As a boy, I never wanted to have sleepovers because I would want to go to bed early when everyone else wanted to hangout until dawn. One prime example was my 7th birthday, when I left my party early (which was in the basement) to go sleep in my bedroom, leaving my Mom to entertain 10 sugar-crazed boys. For the same reasons, I didn’t like going to overnight camps or camping in a tent where I knew adequate sleep would escape me. In my young mind, the boys who could sleep anywhere were the boys who grew up to be the cool guys. They were the guys who could close out a party, watch a movie marathon, and go for a midnight swim. I was always in bed before my parents (even in the weekends) and I still usually go to bed before everyone in my family. When I do sleep I need a solid 9 hours to function and ideally 10 would be perfect. This somewhat pathological need for sleep has shaped my life and my daily activities. Do you want to wake up early and workout? No. Do you want to go see the midnight premiere? No. Do you want to go get drinks after dinner? No. Do you want to join a morning book club? No. My window of ideal sleep is between 10:00 pm to 8:00 am. If I deviate too much from that window I will be a zombie for the next day and possibly the whole week. I know I am a high maintenance sleeper and my obsession with sleep led me to read The Power of When by Michael Breus, PhD.
There are four types of sleepers: Bears, Lions, Wolfs, and Dolphins. Bears make up 50% of the population and wake up naturally with the rhythms of the sun – not going to bed too late and not waking up too early. Lions, naturally morning hunters, make up 20% of the population and are the people who rise very early and accomplish a ton of things before Bears even begin to hit the snooze button. Wolves, naturally nocturnal hunters, are the late-night prowlers who probably best fit my description of the “Cool Guy.” Dolphins, which sleep with only half their brain at a time, make up 10% of the population. Dolphins are the people who would normally be described as insomniacs; they have difficulty falling asleep, they are easily awoken, and they struggle to get more than 6 hours of sleep a night. What sleep animal are you? To take an accurate quiz on the author’s site, click the link here. I am a Bear but I think a better description would be a Koala Bear – they sleep a crap ton. Most of the people I know are Bears but I do know a Wolf (shout out to Megan) and a Lioness (shout out to Ashley). I still have yet to meet a Dolphin but I think my wife is some weird combination of a Panda Bear riding on top of a leaping Porpoise. I think the biggest take away from this book is to put sleep on the top of your priority list. If you struggle to get enough sleep because you like to stay up late, try turning off all electronics one hour before bedtime. You really need 5 complete sleep cycles to get a healthy nights rest; each sleep cycle is an average 90 minutes long so that equals about 7.5 hours a night. People may have longer cycles or shorter cycles but most people know their sweet spot when it comes to a great nights rest.
Peruse the website and check out the specific recommendations for each sleep type. Just remember, without sleep, your brain and body are at a significant health handicap – limiting your full animal potential.