Are you a night owl or an early riser?
Do you exercise at night or in the morning? Do you eat late or snack throughout the day? Your unique set of daily habits, preferences, and patterns may be related to your chronotype.
The chronotyping system classifies these patterns as expressions of the habitual timing of your internal biological clocks. Chronotypes are divided into two major types: morning and evening. (You can take your body type quiz here.)
How do chronotypes relate to Ayurvedic body types?
Pitta. According to Ayurveda, individuals with pitta body types tend to be more evening chronotypes. Pitta types, who tend to be competitive, fiery, and driven, often become stimulated in the evening between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. This is when the liver (in the form of glutathione along with melatonin) engages in its nightly cleansing, detoxing, and repairing.
Kapha. Kapha types, who are generally easygoing and calm in nature, tend to get sleepy between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Lacking in pitta, and typically in bed earlier and up earlier, kapha types are classically morning chronotypes.
Vata. Those with vata body types tend to be more morning chronotypes. Vata types are highly sensitive and, due to their lighter, less dense constitution, will be more in tune with the natural rhythms of nature. That said, because they easily slip out of balance due to stress, poor diet, and a lifestyle against the circadian rhythms, they can become evening chronotypes.
Evening chronotypes at risk.
Studies suggest that evening chronotypes are more susceptible to obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Evening chronotypes are also more likely to exercise less, eat poorly, and get less sleep.
So while some have a constitutional tendency to be an evening chronotype, with a balanced lifestyle, they can switch to become the healthier morning chronotype.
So, we must all resist the desire to change the world or write our next book between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. after a long day at work.
Is it genetic?
One study looked at whether becoming a morning or evening chronotype was a lifestyle event or a genetic predisposition. While more studies need to confirm the genetic relationship, they did find 15 different genetic variations that could relate to one’s chronotype.
Other studies have also found that one’s chronotype will change throughout the course of their life—suggesting more research is needed here. In the genetic study, however, they did not link genetics to the higher risk of health concerns with the evening chronotype.
In other words, just because you are pitta or have a tendency to be a night person, this does not mean that you are doomed with ill health. The health risks associated with evening chronotypes or pitta types were based on diet and lifestyle alone.
The saying, “Early to bed, early to rise will make you healthy, wealthy, and wise” may be very true, but what we now know is:
>> Genetics may predispose us to be one chronotype or another.
>> Your Ayurvedic body type is linked to genetics.
>> Lifestyle, diet, and exercise will play a major role.
>> Your chronotype will shift as you age.
>> Higher health risk is not linked to your genetics—just your bedtime.
How does your chronotype change with age?
Many studies have been done in this area and all have measured reliable shifts between morning chronotypes to evening chronotypes throughout one’s life cycle.
This concept was also described in Ayurveda. Human life was broken down into three distinct cycles:
- Kapha life cycle: ages 1-14
- Pitta life cycle: ages 14-60
- Vata life cycle: ages 60-100+
The science that tracked chronotype shifts correlates very closely to these Ayurvedic life cycles.
Children, in the kapha time of their life, will be more predominantly morning chronotypes until adolescence. Kapha body types, and those in the kapha time of the life, will entrain more kapha-like behaviors, which fall more in line with the morning chronotype.
Teenagers move into their pitta life cycle, where they have been found to shift from morning chronotypes to evening chronotypes with a greater tendency to stay up late and have a less healthy diet and lifestyle. This correlates with the tendencies for pitta types and teenagers who commonly like to stay up late.
After 21-23, there is a tendency to slowly shift back to becoming more morning chronotypes, although this process does not fully shift until age 50 when we leave the pitta life cycle and enter the vata life cycle.
Very slowly, it seems we become wiser during the pitta life cycle. During the pitta life cycle, women—the often wiser gender—are more likely to be morning chronotypes than men. Men seem to catch up by age 50. After age 50, as we all move into the vata time of life, we shift to earlier to bed and earlier to rise, becoming morning chronotypes.
Your lifestyle is a reflection of who you are.
The bottom line is that it is all about lifestyle.
Circadian science and Ayurvedic wisdom both agree on some basic lifestyle rules that we should all strive for, even if we have a genetic tendency to be an evening chronotype.
Here are a few of the basics to help get you synced up with the rhythms of nature and keep your internal clocks ticking as they were designed:
- Get up at sunrise or before and try to get the sun on your body for 10-15 minutes.
- Eat a healthy breakfast.
- Exercise, yoga, breathe, meditate, or prayer in the morning.
- Eat a healthy lunch and relax.
- Do not snack.
- Eat a smaller and early supper.
- Go to bed two hours after the sun sets, generally no later than 10:00 p.m.