The 4 sleep types - which one is yours?

4 Schlaftypen
Sleep types in our society

4 sleep types … no, I’m not talking about chronotypes, i.e. owl, lark, dove or even bear, wolf, dolphin and lion. The types of sleep I am referring to here also have nothing to do with chronobiology in principle (initially).

It’s about the way we sleep within 24 hours, because sleep is never the same as sleep. There is healthy sleep and unhealthy sleep, deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep, rhythmic sleep, rhythmic sleep and so on.

Some of us are constant sleepers and love nothing more than an afternoon nap, while others struggle to get more than four hours of sleep a night. So it’s about the way we sleep or don’t sleep within 24 hours, because sleep is never the same as sleep.

Study on different types of sleep

Scientists in the USA have now identified four different types of sleep and their respective effects on long-term health.

Sleep types - What exactly was examined?

In order to identify different sleep types in adults, the scientists examined the transitions of the so-called sleep health phenotypes over a period of 9-11 years. You then relate this to the risk of chronic diseases.

A national sample of 3,683 middle-aged US adults was analyzed. The sleep parameters of regularity, satisfaction, alertness, efficiency, duration and parameters relating to the number and type of chronic illnesses were surveyed using questionnaires. Furthermore, age, gender, race, education, training, partner status, number of children, work status, smoking, alcohol and physical activity were differentiated.

Everyone was also given tips on sleep hygiene habits to improve their sleep, e.g. not using cell phones in bed, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon.


The results showed that it is rather unlikely that people change their sleep type over a period of 10 years. This was particularly true for insomniacs and nappers, who made up 50% of the test subjects. According to the lead scientists, these are “suboptimal” patterns that increase the risk of several fatal diseases.

So this finding may suggest that it is very difficult to change our sleep habits, as sleep health is embedded in our overall lifestyle. Habits are things that people often take for granted without thinking about how to change them.

In addition, lifestyle and all its habits predominantly determine sleep behavior and not the other way around. A change in sleeping habits therefore inevitably requires a change in lifestyle. However, this often offers people security, guarantees social participation and often also professional success. A traditional “You have to tough it out!” usually puts an end to any discussion about appropriate changes in behavior and relationships.

However, the finding could also indicate that many people are still unaware of the importance of their sleep and their own sleep health behavior. Not everyone is immune to approaches for change, but simply uninformed. This is similar to nutrition. For some, the information can be a decisive trigger to change things, for others it can be a reason to close themselves off.

“Our study sample consisted mainly of healthy adults from the MIDUS study, which led us to assume better sleep health. However, the results showed a worrying prevalence of insomnia or napping patterns among participants, highlighting the importance of sleep health even in supposedly healthy populations.”

says study author Soomi Lee, associate professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University.

The fact that mainly people classified as healthy at the beginning of the observation period were observed reduces the risk that any illnesses occurring have already been announced in advance. Of course, a causal relationship between diseases and lifestyle cannot be ruled out 100%, but the probability can be increased. The study did not address the question of the “chicken and egg syndrome”. In other words, was it the life circumstances that led to the poor sleep and the illnesses that occurred as a result, or was it the poor sleep and the life circumstances based on it.

Either way, but after 10 years, insomniacs were 72 to 188 percent more likely to develop chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and frailty with sleep disorders.

The serious consequences

“It is important to note that the identification of the insomnia sleeper phenotype was based on self-reported sleep characteristics and not on a clinical diagnosis. However, these characteristics closely match clinical insomnia symptoms, including short sleep duration, high daytime sleepiness and prolonged sleep onset.”

Meanwhile, most surprisingly, diabetes, cancer and frailty seemed to come more frequently to Napper. However, older people also seem to tend to nap more. In contrast, the weekend catch-up slee per and good sleeper sleep types were not associated with chronic illnesses.

The results also indicate an increased risk of chronic diseases associated with suboptimal sleep health phenotypes, especially among insomniacs. It was also particularly noticeable that people with a lower level of education and people at risk of unemployment had a higher risk of suffering from insomnia. The social status is therefore an important aspect in relation to sleep health.


According to Lee, the following conclusions can be drawn from the study:

Are sleep types unchangeable?

The fact that sleep types have not changed over 10 years does not mean that they are unchangeable. However, it is important not to want to change everything immediately, but to maintain the consistency of small or growing steps. So if we can improve sleep almost every day, what results might we see after several months or even several years? Bad habits also become ingrained over a long period of time, but positive habits become just as ingrained. The mechanism within us is the same.

Better sleep habits can make many significant differences, from improving social relationships and work performance to promoting long-term healthy behaviors and healthy aging.

Studies have established the connection between good sleep and average age. According to the study, good sleep had a particularly significant impact on life expectancy in men: those with the best quality of sleep lived 4.7 years longer than those with the worst. For women, the difference was 2.4 years.

A behaviour/ratio analysis as well as an ABC analysis of your own optimization potential can be helpful here. What does that mean?


On the one hand, you have the opportunity to change something about your behavior, but also about the conditions in which I live. The former always sounds easier to change, the latter more complex. But if you take a closer look at the situation, a single change in ratio can bring about umpteen changes in behavior.
Job example: If I am looking for a job near where I live (change of relationship), I can

ABC analysis

I always recommend subjecting possible changes to an ABC analysis.

In this way, you create a structure and can plan individual steps and successes better and, above all, implement them consistently. Above all, however, you also motivate yourself in this way, as achieving small goals spurs you on to tackle larger goals from the category above.

Do you find yourself in one of the sleep types? Especially if it’s the napper or sleepless type, you should take the first step. The study also showed that it is not a question of timing or even age whether changes make sense.

“We need to do more to educate the public about good sleep health.” Soomi Lee

I have been pursuing precisely this goal for over 20 years through lectures and workshops, and currently also through our training courses as part of the Immer ausgeschlafen Akademie program.