Build your workday based on which animal you are

Fast Company

Chances are you don’t start work in the morning without first having coffee.

But as board-certified sleep specialist and “The Power of When” author Michael Breus sees it, exactly when you should have caffeine depends on your sleep type.

When it comes to falling asleep and waking up, Breus has found there are four types of people in the world, or rather, animals: bears, lions, wolves and dolphins. Each represents a so-called chronotype that describes your body’s natural sleep habits and energy patterns.

Knowing not to act like a wolf when you’re really a bear, Breus says, can help you have less painful wake-ups, fewer after-lunch slumps and more productive workdays overall.

Breus believes that your chronotype can offer a road map for taking advantage of your body’s natural energy flows. Here’s how to start the day off right, take advantage of your peak work hours and even be happier:


Bears are about 50 percent of the population. “They are the ‘get it done’ group,” Breus says. “They have normal sleep schedules, but may not get quite enough sleep.”

Morning routine: Wake up at about 7 a.m. and get your blood flowing with 10 minutes of stretching. Eat a light breakfast: fruit, yogurt, nuts and a 16-ounce glass of water.Take 15 minutes or so to plan your day. Then grab that coffee.

Peak productivity: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

After work, you should exercise, knowing that getting started is probably going to be a little tough. After your workout, wind down with a light dinner and go easy on the carbs. Power down at 10 p.m., especially all your devices. Lights out by 11. Bears find it easy to stay up late, only to struggle with getting up on time the next day.


Lions “wake up without an alarm, and it is usually dark out,” Breus says. Type-A personalities, lions typically “send emails before most people are awake” and represent about 15 percent of the population.

Morning routine: Lions can wake up easily around 5:30 a.m. without an alarm. Have a high-protein breakfast by 6, avoiding carbs if you can. Find a spot to meditate, for up to an hour if you can spare the time, before anybody else gets up.

If you’d rather squeeze in an early-morning workout, go for it. But you’ll have energy to do this later in the day if you’d prefer. Time for a coffee at 9 a.m.

Peak productivity: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

If you can, ditch the office on the early side, by 4:30 or 5, because your energy will start to dip by mid-afternoon. This is a great time to work out if you haven’t yet. Make sure dinner is an even balance of protein, healthy fats and carbs. Hit the hay by 10:30.


Wolves represent up to 20 percent of the population, Breus says. “They hate mornings and usually hit the snooze button multiple times. They are late to work, and usually on their third cup of coffee at 9 a.m.” Wolves tend to go hard on caffeine in the mornings in order to “overcome their wolfishness,” he explains.

Morning routine: Set your alarm for about 7, but let yourself hit snooze so you can sleep in for another 20–30 minutes, then crawl out of bed. It’s not going to be fun. Go stand in front of a window and drink a 16-ounce glass of water. The sunlight will help you wake up as you rehydrate. Throw on your sneakers and go for a 20–40-minute walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood. This might be a good time to brainstorm.

At 11 a.m., you can finally grab that coffee, and it doesn’t hurt to catch a few more minutes of sunlight again if you’re able to do so.

Peak productivity: 12 p.m.–8 p.m.

At 5 p.m., you’ll still be going strong. Have a snack and keep working. You’re at your most creative and energized through early evening, even after some of your co-workers have gone home. Have a late dinner, around 8 or even 9 p.m.

Start powering down all your screens by 11. You’ll be able to stay up late if you aren’t careful, so commit to lights out by midnight.


Dolphins “are anxious people who have irregular sleep schedules,” according to Breus, who estimates that one in 10 people are dolphins. “They often self-diagnose as insomniacs and send emails all night long.”

Morning routine: Jump out of bed at about 6 and into your running shoes. Break a light sweat and get some sun. Grab breakfast at about 8 a.m.: half carbs, half protein, no caffeine (yet). Think through your goals for the day or sketch out a to-do list, but wait to socialize with your co-workers until your first coffee break.

Have a small coffee by 9:30 or 10, but make sure it’s half decaf. You’ll need less of a boost than you think.

Peak productivity: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Have dinner at 7, and consider using this time to chat with a partner, spouse or friend. Dolphins find evening mealtime ideal for resolving conflicts and thinking through big ideas with others.

By 10 p.m., begin a bedtime ritual that can help you wind down: Turn off your smartphone and resist the urge to watch TV before bed. Run a hot bath and relax instead. Drift off by midnight, but try not to beat yourself up if you find yourself staring at the ceiling for a while first. You may have trouble falling asleep, but chances are you’ll still be getting the shut-eye you need.

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