How to Sleep Better as an Introvert
We introverts probably need more sleep than extroverts because our body needs time to recover from all the stimulation it receives each day.
I try to sleep nine hours a night. And, wow, do I envy my husband when I say goodnight to him and crawl under the covers knowing he will have about two hours left to do some gaming, web surfing, reading, or whatever he pleases.
The truth is I just don’t do well on less sleep. When I don’t sleep enough, I pay the price the following day — a headache, hot flashes, a grumpy mood, and walking around like a zombie, counting away the hours until I can finally rest my head on my pillow again.
So for me, my bedtime is sacred — as an introvert, I need time to recover from all the interaction, stimuli, and noise from during the day. Therefore, I really dislike evening activities, such as late work meetings, birthday parties on weeknights, or evening classes. Eek! They prevent me from having downtime and disrupt my evening routine.
Do Introverts Need More Sleep Than Extroverts?
So, you might be wondering, is this typical for introverts? Or does it just depend on the person? To me, it’s likely that your personality plays a role in how much sleep you need — and some experts agree. In this Psychology Today piece, for example, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, writes that “Sleep is the primal form of introversion, a state in which we temporarily but regularly withdraw almost totally from the outer world and journey to the fathomless depths of the inner world.” He also says sleep is a specific time for “just being rather than doing.” (Yep, that sounds like a dream come true for us introverts, all right!)
While scientific studies are lacking about whether or not introverts need more sleep than extroverts, Dr. Diamond speculates that introverted types both like — and need — more sleep than their extroverted counterparts. I think there are several reasons why introverts may need more sleep than extroverts. For instance, bedtime allows us to be on our own, think things through (a lot!), meditate, and let our mind wander. Whereas an extrovert may find sleep a waste of time, they are more drawn to the possibility to keep on going, interact more with others, and keep exploring and staying active.
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Of course, everybody is different — and you may be an ambivert (both an introvert and extrovert), an “extroverted” introvert, or you may have at least some aspects of the other personality type present.
This comparison, however, makes it clear that introverts are more favorable to getting rest. Besides, our body needs time to recover from all the stimulation it receives each day. Naturally, this takes time. The more information that enters the brain, the more the brain needs to process.
In this other article by Dr. Diamond, he puts it beautifully: “For the introvert, sleep and dreaming is a welcome way of connecting to his or her true nature and receiving the requisite energy, power, and wisdom to be in the outer world more meaningfully, authentically, and successfully.”
How to Get Better Sleep as an Introvert
First, let me start with some good news. Apparently, introverts are more equipped to deal with sleep deprivation, due to their higher level of cortical arousal. So keep that in mind, my dear introverts. (Even though this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire to getting better sleep!)
For instance, I found out my main sleep saboteur is my mind. I will feel anxious about something and this occurs in my subconscious. I won’t even actively think about it, but somewhere in my brain it is impairing my sense of safety, my feeling of security. It’s like passive overthinking.
I think a lot of introverts can probably relate. You want a nice job, you want to be on top of things, you want to feel safe and secure, you want to be you, you want to be left alone… But these desires can be highly challenged in an extroverted world, so you will start worrying and feel anxious. And, hence, you will be wide awake…
Okay, so let’s say introverts need more sleep. No problem, right? Just go to bed on time or set your alarm clock for the required time, yes?
But it’s not that easy. Factors like the aforementioned overthinking can keep us introverts awake (when we should be sleeping).
As far as sleep deprivation goes, the main cause is either not falling asleep, waking up during the night, or waking up too early. My husband is the type of person who just falls asleep the moment his head hits the pillow and he can wake up, just turn on his other side, and continue sleeping! Me: Jealous!
So how do I get those nine hours of sleep? Here are my tips.
Physical Tips to Sleep Better
Here are some physical methods you can try to help promote sleep.
- Practice self-care. Try brushing your skin, which can help increase circulation and rid the body of toxins.
- Do some self-massage. Touching your skin gets you out of your thinking patterns and has you focus on something else (i.e., your skin).
- Engage in breathing exercises. I especially like the Buteyko method and the alternate nostril exercise. These exercises will calm your brain and lessen your feelings of anxiety. Or just focus on your breathing without trying to alter it, as it will probably slow down naturally that way, and so will your heart rate. Or try the 4-7-8 method breathing method if you do better with some added guidance.
- Get your rest. Be honest and respectful of yourself by scheduling in downtime and alone time. Even if it’s just lying on your back and staring at the ceiling for a few moments, it’ll give your brain some (much-needed) rest.
- Try grounding yourself. Get out of your head by focusing on feeling your body and the ground underneath your feet.
- Tighten and loosen your muscles. While lying in bed, really tighten your feet and legs — and then loosen them. Do this three times and you will probably be yawning the second time. Yawning is a way of relaxing, of course, and will lead you to sleeping…
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Mental Tips to Sleep Better
Of course, there is something to “mind over matter,” too — especially when it comes to sleep.
- Write down everything that pops into your head. Do this shortly before bed and don’t try to find solutions — just write it all down.
- Be kind to yourself. A part of self-care is saying nice things to yourself. Don’t be too harsh: Talk to yourself as you would to a good friend. You may say something like, “It is okay to feel anxious or nervous” or “Good job today.”
- Give yourself a few minutes of “worry time.” Instead of worrying during the day, choose a time in which you are allowed to worry — a limited amount of time, like 20 minutes — and then just stop. (You can set a timer if it helps!)
- Use positive mantras and affirmations. When I lie in bed and start to think about stuff (like everything), I tell myself: “The bed is for sleeping — the thinking will have to wait.” You may want to try this, too, or your own variation of it.
- Practice visualization. Imagine yourself in a place you love. I picture myself wandering through a field of flowers, and then sitting down at a riverside. I dangle my feet in the water or walk over the pebble riverbed…
- Talk to someone about your sleep concerns. We introverts may have the tendency to stay in our own mind and keep ruminating (over and over again!). This can make a specific narrative on which somebody else can shine a different light. Sometimes, we can get really stuck in our way of thinking. So let somebody in, whether it’s a therapist, friend, or loved one.
- Try self-hypnosis (which is like a deep meditation). This has really helped me in a work situation in which I just was not only unhappy, but also not able to get out of just yet.
- Think of things you are grateful for. This can be as simple as the weather, your lovely partner, the nice meal you made, the roof over your head, you name it. You can write these down or think of them in your mind.
Environmental Tips to Sleep Better
Your sleep environment is an important factor, too, when it comes to getting a restful night’s rest.
- I sleep like a bear in hibernation — my bedroom is completely dark and hardly any sound comes in. Besides that, I use earplugs (I recommend custom-made ones; for me, they’ve been a complete life-saver!).
- An ideal bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit — not too warm, not too cold.
- I sleep under a weighted blanket and can really recommend it. What it does is make you feel really tightly tucked in. In turn, this makes you feel secure and also prevents you from moving around too much in your sleep. It will lower your stress level and anxiety, too.
- Have something soft with you in bed. Touching something soft also lessens your stress level.
- Make sure you have the appropriate sort of mattress and pillow. A sleep expert can help you choose a mattress and pillow that is best for your body type and sleep style.
- Make your bedroom smell nice, yet relaxing. As a highly sensitive introvert, I am quite sensitive to smells, but can use this to my advantage. I will use lavender balm on my face and hands or use scented body lotion. Just make sure not to use scents that are too overpowering, or else they may wake you up versus calm you down.
- Music can help you relax, too. I love piano music, especially Ludovico Einaudi. I also use ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is a sensation that produces a tingling effect and relaxes you. For instance, you might watch a video of someone brushing their hair, and the light sound is calming. It can be auditory, visual, or tactile. ASMR helps me focus on something else and allows me to “get out of my head.
Lifestyle Tips to Sleep Better
Overall lifestyle tips — like not eating certain foods before bed — can help you catch some zzz’s, too.
- Establish a bedtime routine. For me, this looks like: doing some low-impact exercise, eating dinner, showering, spending time on a craft, watching TV, brushing my teeth, and heading to bed. It is the same for kids and still is the same when you are an adult. You give your brain subliminal signals it is about time to go to sleep.
- Don’t eat heavy foods late at night. What I like to eat in the evening is some thick yogurt with fruit and walnuts. Did you know that tryptophan in bananas has a calming effect, too? (This is what’s in turkey that makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving Day.) Combine the banana with nuts (for magnesium) to help calm your muscles, and you have the perfect nighttime snack.
- Bore yourself to sleep. What I mean is, you don’t do anything active in the evening. So no scary movies or stress-inducing TV shows or performing intense sports or exercise. You want to keep your heart rate low, not provoke it.
- No social media in the evening. I am not even talking about no social media due to the blue light it emits! Rather, I’m talking about all the information your brain receives from swiping on and on through all the feeds. Many introverts can be very affected by it. I will get anxious, insecure, angry, or sad — and that just doesn’t do me any good (especially right before bed!). The same goes for checking your email — just don’t! (Really — don’t!)
- Laugh, be active, hug people, and do things you love. Make the day as joyful and purposeful as you can. When I hardly have time to draw or craft, my spirit will go down — and worries/anxious feelings will more easily rise to the surface.
Get Yourself Back on (Sleep) Track
For me, the real breakthrough in getting better sleep was discovering I had to alter my way of thinking. Namely, I had to reduce my tendency to worry and be negative about myself. I needed to calm down my brain in order to get the proper sleep I so desperately needed. I could use all the lavender oil, melatonin tablets, and herbal teas in the world — yet still lie awake with my heart racing.
So please be kind to yourself, pamper yourself, and explore which path suits you the best, even though it is less traveled.
I really hope these tips will help you get the sleep you need. If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments below. Meanwhile, sleep tight!
You might like:
- The Science Behind How Introverts Sleep and Dream
- Why Every Introvert Should Have an Evening Routine
- For Introverts, Why Are Our Bedrooms Our Havens?
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