Toddler lying stretched out in a bed

Early risers, late risers?

Early riser, late riser, lark or owl?

How would you describe your sleep patterns and energy levels in the morning? A look into the field of chronobiology helps to better understand your own behaviour.

What does chronobiology mean and what does it have to do with my sleep?

Chronobiology is a field of biology that deals with the temporal laws of biological organisms and systems. In short, it deals with recurring processes and regularities, which are called biological rhythms. Human sleep is probably one of the most common examples of chronobiology due to the sleep-wake rhythm.

What are the three chronotypes?

The most common are the "owl" and the "lark". In fact, from a medical point of view, there is also the mixed chronotype; some scientists even distinguish between four different types. The so-called inner clock is decisive for the type.

The lark: The lark is the so-called morning type. He is very active in the morning, gets out of bed quickly and starts the day with a lot of energy. In the evening, he quickly falls asleep while watching TV, and he usually has trouble surviving evening outings and events. If the day does get a little longer, the lark often has problems in the morning, because the inner clock wakes the body at an early time as usual, which in turn breaks the sleep. A tip for the lark at this point: Put on sunglasses in the morning, as these take light away from the eye and thus allow the body a longer dark phase.

Die Eule: The owl fits the image of a typical teenager. Awake until late at night, very productive and unable to get out of bed in the morning. The owl has traditionally has a somewhat harder time in the working world, because its inner clock is still asleep, but it still struggles out of bed. Eating breakfast can also be problematic, because the entire body, including digestion, is actually still on break. Late shifts, parties or evening sports activities are much easier for the owl than for the lark.

The mixed chronotype: This lies somewhere between the owl and the lark. He can often fit very well into both extremes and so varies in his best performance and neediness.

What determines the chronotype?

The inner clock is decisive for the chronotype and it is genetically determined. It already develops in the womb.

What is the inner clock?

The so-called internal clock is the body's determinant of when a person enters the sleep phase and at what time. All of us, regardless of gender and age, have a rhythm when it comes to when we wake up and when we fall asleep. This rhythm also determines whether we are early risers or night owls. The internal clock itself, is a clock that consists of a nerve cell node, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, located in the brain behind the root of the nose. It is located at a point just above the junction of the optic nerves coming from the two eyes and processes whether it is dark or light. This internal clock determines when our body and mind can work at its best, when physical changes take place and when the digestive system is ready for food.

Not only chronotypes determine our sleep, but also the types of our sleep

A distinction is made between long and short sleepers. A long sleeper is not necessarily an unproductive person and a short sleeper is not automatically an exhausted person. On the other hand, long sleep should be supported, because it enables a long sleeper to perform at a high level, which can be reduced by too little sleep. A short sleeper manages to minimise sleep so that his performance is maximised. Here, too, the inner clock plays a role and helps determine a person's need for sleep. How much one needs is different for each person, but the need for sleep changes continuously. Children usually need more sleep than adults.

Our lives today often contradict the inner clock

As humans, we have a body that is very individual and develops in a certain direction due to the innate chronotypes when it comes to needs of the body. In today's world, however, everything develops very quickly, people have to adapt and progress is constant. Consideration for the respective chronotypes is hardly ever taken into account, which means that one actively works against the inner clock and therefore counterproductively to the body. The consequences can be stress, depression, lack of sleep, metabolic disorders or cardiovascular diseases if there is no appropriate balance.

Adjusting the daily routine to the inner clock can contribute to a better quality of life.

Living 100 per cent with the inner clock is almost unthinkable. Nevertheless, you can set certain parameters to support it and give your body a little more freedom.

These include, among others: Diet, the right timing for physical activities and for light exposure, and the right environment for trouble-free sleep.

To ensure healthy and supportive sleep and give the body the rest it deserves, regardless of chronotype, a good mattress is advisable.