Confessions of A Sleepyhead

A friend was telling me about a study in which a small group of introverts need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night in order to perform at their peak. Immediately, I recognized myself as belonging to this small group. I’ve often wondered why it is that any night I get any less than 9 hours of sleep I feel groggy, slow, and like I just want to go back to bed. Turns out that this is an actual condition.

What is it about introverts that requires us to need more sleep? I don’t know much about it, but I’ve read, or heard, somewhere (perhaps from the same friend, who’s fascinated with personality types), that introverts are drained by being around people – in contrast to extroverts, who actually gain energy from being around people. So if an introvert, for example, has a job in which he is constantly performing for, with, and around people, it might make sense for him to need more sleep than a non-introvert.

For the more extreme introverts, 9 to 12 hours may not even be sufficient. If an introvert falling into this rare category finds himself needing more sleep to recover from an added energy-drain, she may be looking at, say, 13 to 17 hours of sleep, in order to bounce back.

Of course, this is all speculation. Introverts and extroverts all have their quirks – and every person is different, after all. An introvert reading this might feel relief that there are others like him. I know I did. Luckily, I’m in a position to where if I want to sleep all day, there’s really nothing stopping me. But what about those who aren’t so lucky?

I’m not suggesting that introverts should start their own Sleep Revolution and sleep all day, getting up only to go to work (not saying that hasn’t worked for me before). But our relationship with sleep is an important one – no matter the personality type – and couldn’t be more undermined by today’s social and cultural expectations.

On Sleep

Sleep has become a new focus of mine. I first became acquainted with the importance of sleep only recently, when listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the James Altucher Show, in which he interviews Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and author of the book The Sleep Revolution.

I won’t go into statistics or start listing off facts, but yeah – let’s just say sleep is pretty cool. Most inhabitants of Planet Earth are underslept, and are oblivious to this and wondering why symptoms in their health, work and personal lives are showing up. I am no model sleeper – I still fall into this category. But I’ve become fascinated with the science and practicality of sleep.

A few days after listening to Sleep Revolution on audiobook, I had the first full, good night’s sleep in a long while, and I remember feeling refreshed in a way that I hadn’t felt in weeks. (That’s because sleep reorganizes and rehabilitates your brain as well as your body, providing you with an improved mental attitude and allowing new perspectives to form). That’s when it really “dawned” on me (see what I did there?) – I was hooked.

The importance of perspective when it comes to simply being “Happy” cannot be denied – Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor writes, “by changing the way we perceive ourselves and our work, we can dramatically improve our results.” [p. 78] If good sleep can provide a playing field for new, healthier perspectives, it makes sense to do everything one can to set up his or her life to maximize good quality sleep.

Since that night, I’ve become addicted to the question of “how can I get not only sufficient but uninterrupted, deep sleep as many nights as possible”? Turns out that this question can’t exactly be answered in a single blog post. To actually accomplish this requires, like any indispensable facet of life, looking at and factoring in how it fits into all of the other puzzle pieces. What do I want to get done the following morning (or, in my case, afternoon)? When will I be turning in that night (or early morning)? Did I have naps that day? Caffeine? Are the conditions ideal for good sleep (blacked out room, earplugs, eye mask, etc.)?

I like Sleep, but not only for the reasons one might think. I like it because it forces me to ask bigger questions about my life. Sleep is one of the Big Three, the other two being Diet and Exercise. I see these three as being the roots from which all other facets of life spring. To become curious about them indicates that we’re starting to ask some bigger questions, which, if we stay curious, will improve the quality of our lives in general in the long run.