Qualified sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo explains how different ‘types’ have naturally different windows of alertness and fatigue, and by harnessing these we can make sure we’re optimising our schedule to get the most out of each day. What’s yours?
Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our new editorial series Sleep Well Wednesdays. Check back each week and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.
Productivity: it’s the new black since our (partial) transition to working from home. And even if you’re eating brain boosting food, listening to binaural beats and even reinventing your office space, there’s a very integral part of the productivity puzzle that you may not have covered yet: sleep.
But rather than just generally improving your sleep to increase your productivity, you can see even better results by tailoring your daily patterns to your specific sleep chronotype. Sounds good, right? Right.
Read on – before another unproductive day passes.
What is a chronotype?
A chronotype is a biological disposition to wake and sleep at particular times. As governed by your circadian rhythm, it when your body releases the sleep/wake hormones such as melatonin, which makes you sleepy, and cortisol, which makes you feel alert.
How does your chronotype impact your productivity?
Essentially if you know your chronotype, you should maximise the challenging tasks done within your ‘best’ or most energetic window of time each day. Once that window ends, give yourself a brief time out – and couple it with a cortisol-raising activity. Even though cortisol is a stress hormone, if leveraged correctly it can be used to boost energy.
How do you identify your chronotype?
Ask yourself, when am I most alert and when am I most fatigued? Of course, this can be hard to answer if your hours are dictated by someone else. However, consider if you could dictate your own schedule, or how you operate best on the weekends.
You are a lion if…
You are… most alert between 7am-12pm and most fatigued between 7pm-12am.
You are a bear if…
If you are most alert between 10am-4pm and most fatigued before or after these times.
You are a wolf if…
You are most alert between 2pm-8pm and most fatigued between 7am-1pm.
You are a dolphin if…
You are most alert in the late evening, after 10pm, and most fatigued throughout the day.
How to boost productivity, according to your chronotype?
Best time to boost your productivity: Late morning
What to do: Feel free to reach for cup of coffee, hot chocolate, caffeinated tea or peppermint tea. As it’s still hours before you are going to bed, you’ll have plenty of time for the caffeine to be eliminated from your system without sabotaging your sleep. And if you’re trying to avoid caffeine, opt for peppermint tea – studies show it can reduce daytime fatigue.
Best time to boost your productivity: Mid-afternoon
What to do: Exercise. Research shows a brief bout of exercise (say, 10 minutes of stair climbing) provided a greater boost in energy than an espresso. Really.
Best time to boost your productivity: Morning
What to do: Have team meetings. Psychologically, interacting with others for collective goals can give you the pep you need – and overcome your own internal fatigue.
Best time to boost your productivity: It varies
What to do: Nap for 20 minutes (without caffeine, please) or meditate. As dolphins are the most likely to suffer insomnia, it’s possible you don’t just need an energy boost – you actually need more sleep.
Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology, Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); Certificate of Fitness III + IV. You can find her online here.