China Elevator Stories

The Four Sleep Chronotypes by michael Breus (Dolphin, Bear, Lion and Wolf)

The four sleep chronotypes have been discovered by Dr. Michael Breus.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


Just like introversion and extroversion, people have certain inborn traits and characteristics that reflect in differences in behavior, appearance, body language, and can even show in people’s sleep patterns.

The Chinese use the classification system of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) to calculate a person’s main element.

Carol Tuttle, an American, has used the four elements to describe the 4 Types (air, water, fire and earth). Her theory is based on the Greek theory of the four elements. According to Wikipedia, “the classical elements typically refer to earth, water, air, fire, and (later) aether which were proposed to explain the nature and complexity of all matter in terms of simpler substances.”

Carol Tuttle’s 4 Types all have distinct traits that make it easy to distinguish them once you have learned which type has which main traits. The four elements show as distinct shapes in the face of a person, as differences in a person’s speaking habits, in a person’s thinking, in their body language, and in their character, among others.

The German singer Joris, for example, is a Type 2 (water), followed by a Type 4 (earth), then by a Type 1 (air), finishing with a Type 3 (fire).

My main element is air, which translates to a Type 1 (or wood according to the theory of the five elements).

Joris likes to use hidden hints in his songs. In his newest song, spring! (jump!), you will find a few references to me. [This is a hoover, don’t mistake it for real love!]. In one of the scenes in the music video, Joris is sitting in a pizzeria called “Delfino”. ‘Delfin’ is German for Dolphin (my sleep chronotype). One line goes like this: “It’s too loud inside, the air is used up, …”

My ex-husband has a pizzeria in Siping. He used to have a pizza shop in a private flat which he didn’t register for many years even though I had often asked him to do so. Once I had left Siping, he officially registered a pizzeria. Even though we were still married at that time, he didn’t tell me, and I only found out later via Baidu. Joris’ sings: “You can’t get out of your neighborhood, yeah. Cardboard boxes, everywhere, leftover pizza.”

Back to sleep chronotypes and the 4 Types.

These traits are not handed down from one generation to the next. Even though it can happen that a parent has the same element as their child, it doesn’t have to be the case. For example, my father (who passed away in 2021) was also a Type 1, as is my younger son, but my older son has the main element fire, which translates to a Type 3, and is neither my nor my ex-husband’s main element.

I have observed that the 4 Types correlate with the sleep chronotypes. The sleep chronotypes are a classification system that has been developed by clinical psychologist and medicinal sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus. Dr. Breus has named these four distinct types Dolphins, Lions, Bears, and Wolves. These types, according to Dr. Breus, are genetic, which means that you are born with these traits.

My observation is that the sleep chronotypes correlate with Carol Tuttle’s 4 Types, therefore, Dolphins would be Type 1s (air), Lions would be Type 2s (water), Bears would be Type 3s (fire) and Wolves would be Type 4s (earth).

People who can be classified as Dolphins (Type 1s) are the worst sleepers. Their brain is on alert even when they are asleep, which is different from the other three chronotypes. Dr. Breus says that the dolphin chronotype makes up roughly 10% of the population in the US. They have very erratic sleep schedules and a very short sleep drive, but they crave longer bouts of sleep. Their biology only wants them to sleep 6 hours, but their psychology wants them to sleep 7-8 hours at least.

He describes them as very intelligent, very fast-talking, and as usually also very well read and fun (these observations are also observations Carol Tuttle has made about Type 1s).

Dolphins are usually sleep deprived, no matter what they do, because their brains are alert even when they are asleep. Dr. Breus has called this group ‘Dolphins’ due to the similarity of their sleep tendency to real dolphins, who have been observed to have (or should I say ‘suffer from’!) unihemispheric sleep (resting only half of their brain while asleep).

According to Dr. Breus, Lions (Type 2s) like to get up early and they like to get to sleep early. He likes to call this chronotype the early-to-bed, early-to-rise chronotype. They tend to wake up early in the morning and are most productive before noon. They like to get things done rather sooner than later.

Dr. Breus says they usually make good CEOs. I find that CEOs who are Type 2s (Lions) can be great CEOs due to their sensitive nature. People who are Type 2s (Lions) have inborn traits that usually translate to them being generally relaxed, polite and quiet people (only if they don’t suffer from a personality disorder and are not bipolar). They pay attention to details and are sensitive in nature (which is not the same as an HSP!). Water, or Type 2, is my second element. Lions (Type 2s) are the same as Questioners in Gretchen Rubin’s classification system of The Four Tendencies.

Bears, who make up approximately 55% of the population in the US, are Type 3s (fire). According to Dr. Breus, they are usually most productive before noon, and begin to feel declines in energy in the late afternoon. They begin winding down for sleep in the early evening. Their sleep-wake cycle is aligned with the sun. Dr. Breus says that the 9 to 5 schedule is perfect for Bears, but not necessarily for Wolves!

Wolves are classical night owls. They like to go to bed late, and they like to get up late. People I know that are Wolves like to work during the night and they quite naturally also tend to wake up late. Think people who go to bed after midnight and get up around noon regularly. I know a few people who are Wolves (Type 4s) and they usually all follow a similar schedule. This sleep tendency can be observed even in Type 4 children. Dr. Breus says that this is because melatonin levels and the time at which these levels rise and fall is different for each chronotype. The reason why Wolves tend to go to bed later and wake up later than the other chronotypes is because the melatonin levels needed for sleep are higher at a later time of the day in people who can be classified as Wolves.

Because chronotypes are genetic, they cannot change.

My observation is that sleep tendencies can sometimes vary or mirror that of another sleep chronotype than the one you actually have, but your original chronotype never changes. When you fall more into your secondary or third type, your sleep tendency may also look more like the tendency of another sleep chronotype than your original one. This may mean that you may identify with another sleep chronotype than the one you actually have, which, according to Dr. Breus, can also be circumstantial.

Which sleep chronotype are you?

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