There once was a time (not long ago) when people fell into roughly one of two categories of sleeper. They were either a light sleeper or a heavy sleeper—but not so much anymore, or so it would seem after a major study recently concluded there are in fact 16 types of sleepers. The finding came after a large-scale, systematic review of sleep data representing more than 100,000 people in the U.K.
To identify and categorize different sleep profiles, scientists used wrist-worn fitness trackers to track and group their subjects’ patterns of sleep and wakefulness. In the process, the researchers not only identified unique sleep patterns but found at least seven types of insomnia. The hope is that this new information will lead to more of an understanding of insomnia and related conditions.
16 Ways That People Sleep?
In the meantime, the results of the study may prove insightful for anyone who has ever wondered about their sleeping patterns and ways to get more sleep. (As many as one third of Americans have reported experiencing insomnia, a condition that co-occurs heavily with other medical conditions. To name just one example, there is a very strong link between insomnia and depression.)
By the study’s end, sleepers fell into one of five clusters or categories; clusters 2 to 4 were further categorized as a’s and b’s; and, more confusingly, clusters 3b and 4b were further subdivided into eight groups of fragmented sleepers. If you’re curious what category of sleeper describes you, check out the below list of groups to see which best suits you:
- Category 1 referred to those who experience insomnia in the form of waking up in the middle of the night after a long duration of sleep.
- Category 2a described those who have an irregular sleep schedule, such as shift workers.
- Category 2b, on the other hand, was reserved for people whose sleep is both fragmented and short in duration overall.
- Category 3a was those who experience insomnia with normal sleep duration (typically 7-9 hours for adults).
- Category 3b referred to those with insomnia and short sleep duration.
- 3b1 was a large group that included deep sleepers who had trouble falling asleep again after waking up.
- 3b2 were those who experienced a mix of fragmented sleep and longer periods of wakefulness.
- Category 4 comprised those who had insomnia with short sleep duration.
- 4b1 was a big cluster with long sleepers.
- 4b2 grouped all the morning people.
- 4b3 described those with a shorter 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Their circadian rhythm was especially sensitive to disruption, whether from work or travel.
- 4b4 shared the label of “preinsomnia” with members of 4b5; both groups exhibited normal wake-up durations in the middle of the night, but those in 4b4 struggled more to stay asleep.
- 4b5 suffered from the middle-of-the-night wake-ups also but had less fragmented sleep overall.
- 4b6 grouped all the night people.
- Category 5 consisted of those who sleep soundly all through the night, without taking naps in the day.
That’s a lot of sleep divergence! Still, scientists are optimistic that this very detailed classification system will pave the way toward a much deeper understanding of sleep and its close link to many other medical conditions. Ultimately, that would be a win-win for just about everybody.