Chronotype: Helping Teenagers Understand Their Sleep Style

A person holding an analog clock while lying down

When students struggle with time management, the impact goes beyond simply missing assignments—it can also affect their sleep. To help students develop healthy and consistent sleep schedules, we need to do more than teach them strategies to manage their time; we have to help them understand their own unique relationship with sleep. To do this, we can use chronotypes.

What is a chronotype? 

Chronotype is the concept of being a “morning person” or a “night owl.” It refers to the natural sleep patterns of an individual, and it can have a big impact on how well students perform in school.

One of the most important things for students in high school and college to understand about chronotype is that it can’t be changed overnight; instead, they need to know their sleep style and work with it. Being an early bird or a night owl is largely determined by genetics, and while lifestyle factors can play a role, it is not something that can be easily altered.

Why is it important to know your chronotype? 

Understanding one’s chronotype can be helpful when it comes to how students use their time. For example, a student who is a night owl and most productive in the evening may want to schedule their study sessions or harder academic tasks later in the day. An early bird student may find that they are most alert and focused early in the day, and may want to plan to do their harder tasks in the morning.

Knowing their chronotype can also help students to prioritize sleep. Students who are night owls, for example, may struggle to get to sleep early enough to be well-rested for morning classes, so they may want to catch up on their sleep on weekends.

The impact of learning your chronotype

Understanding one’s chronotype not only helps students make more informed decisions about when to go to bed and when to wake up, but it can also help them make decisions that lead to better performance in school. By understanding their natural sleep patterns and how they impact their productivity, students can decide when to schedule classes and study sessions and when to get adequate sleep. By doing so, they can set themselves up for success in high school, college, and beyond.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

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