I must admit that even though I try to prioritize my health, sleep is a place I really fall short. I’m one of those really fickle sleepers who needs the temperature just so, an absolutely pitch-black room, and a specific set of fans whirring in sync. Add the most elusive factor—a relaxed and quiet mind—and you have a recipe for a night of tossing and turning. I’ve seen specialists, tried medications and meditations, and always follow a carefully-orchestrated sleep routine. Yet, I still struggle to fall and stay asleep.
Given the fact that quality sleep enters the discussion of almost every topic, from maintaining a healthy weight, to getting clearer skin, to improving mood, to productivity, my chronic sleep issues are concerning. And, I’m not alone in this struggle. Even though sleep experts say we should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, according to The Sleep Foundation, 35.2% of adults report sleeping less than 7 hours per night most nights.
I imagine that our busy schedules are partly to blame for the prevalence of insufficient sleep, but what else is going on? A few years ago, I read an article in The Independent about a study investigating how your personality type affects your sleep habits. In my quest to finally put my own sleep struggles to bed (or at least myself!), I decided to look into the connection between one's sleep quality and their personality type, hoping this would elucidate some answers for my own struggles. So, I dug up the study and consulted two sleep experts.
Interested in getting better shut eye yourself? Keep reading to see how your sleep quality is affected by being an introvert or extrovert, and what you can do to improve your sleep based on your personality type.
Meet the Expert
What Is Your Personality Type?
Fitton says that there is some validity to the idea that your personality type may affect your sleep habits. But what do we mean by “personality type”? A common system of categorizing personalities is the Myers-Briggs Personality Type system, which includes 16 distinct types. While Fitton says there isn’t enough research to substantiate nuanced differences in sleep habits between all 16 types, the two primary categories of personalities within the Myers-Briggs system—introverts and extroverts—have been studied.
So, what do we mean by introverts and extroverts? “According to the Myers-Briggs system, introverts are people who like to play with their internal ideas, memories, and experience,” explains Fitton. “They feel energized by their inner world and are more thinking-oriented,” explains Fitton, who says introverts prefer doing things alone, and in fact, get depleted when they spend too much time with other people and don’t get their alone time. Despite trying to will myself otherwise, I fall so deeply into the introverted camp that my photo could be used in place of the dictionary definition (at least in the dictionaries of those who know me).
“Extroverts are people persons. They’re energized by being in groups and mobilizing other people,” notes Fitton. “They really need to talk things out in order to process their thoughts and ideas. They feel restless—bordering on anxious—if they spend too much time alone and don’t get their people time.” She adds that extroverts are more “action-oriented.”
Sleep Habits Based on MBTI
So, how does your personality type affect your sleep habits anyway? According to the study, introverts get poorer quality sleep, and experience more nightmares and periods of wakefulness. They also reported feeling more tired and less alert during the day. Hmm...maybe there is some validity to this sleep/personality connection—the results certainly ring true for this introverted insomniac.
Our experts shared some specific behavioral differences in sleep habits between introverts and extroverts. “Because introverts like to be in their own minds so much, they’re more likely to bring their thinking into bed with them,” notes Fitton. This is a familiar feeling for anyone who has ever had trouble “shutting off their mind” once the lights go off. “Introverts need to put down their toys, let go of their bright, shiny ideas, and learn to quiet their mind as they get ready for bed.”
Extroverts may have a slightly different challenge. “In my experience, many of my more extroverted clients suffer from a sense of ‘FOMO,’ or fear of missing out, when starting their sleep,” notes Tal. “This can lead to sleep anxiety of missing out, which can keep extroverts awake.”
Tal adds that if you share your bed with someone, your personality type can further impact your sleep. “Sometimes, being an introvert can lead to challenges with sleeping with others in the bed. Introverts tend to need time alone to recharge, and if others are around, that recharging time can be interrupted, leading introverts to be on alert when they want to be resting,” he says. “[But] when extroverts are sleeping next to others, they sleep better.”
Improving Your Sleep Habits Based on Your MBTI
“By understanding your personality type, you can make what are generally good sleep habits specifically your own,” says Fitton. In other words, you can work with the cards you’ve been dealt to make sure you’re setting yourself up for successful sleep. Fitton suggests introverts read quietly alone in bed to wind down before sleep. “In effect, it’s a way of shutting the lights off room by room, in their mind,” she says. But, make sure you’re either reading a physical book or using a tablet or ereader with a blue light blocker because the blue light in tablets, smartphones, and similar screens interferes with the brain’s ability to fall asleep. Mindfulness meditation is another great go-to technique to bring on a good night’s sleep. “Mindfulness meditations that are well suited for introverts are any that keep them connected to their internal process, such as body scans, guided imagery, and simple breath awareness practice.”
“In their wind-down period, extroverts need to let go of interacting, texting, phoning, video conferencing, and the like [because] they are way too energizing,” explains Fitton. Instead, she suggests wind-down activities that help clear the mind without talking to someone, such as journaling, checking off accomplishments for the day, and making to-do lists for the next day. And with these, another tip: “Be sure to do all of these somewhere other than your bed,” advises Fitton.
Extroverts can optimize their sleep success with a few additional strategies. “To counteract any feelings of loneliness, extroverts can use a positive neuroplasticity practice of recalling a moment when they felt loved and connected, and intentionally savoring this good moment,” says Fitton. She suggests something like mentally sending yourself and your loved ones well wishes. Tal says that mindset is key. “Extroverts can remind themselves on the importance of sleep—that sleep can help them have a good time with others,” he advises. “If they forgo sleep to catch every opportunity, they will not enjoy it, so it is important to prioritize sleep even if missing out.”
Best Sleep Practices for Everyone
Because poor sleep can negatively affect mental health, no matter what personality type you fall into, ensuring you get the best night's rest possible is critical. Based on her clinical experience working with clients dealing with insomnia, Fitton says the following behaviors have been most effective for restoring good sleep:
- Giving yourself a wind-down period or buffer zone for the hour before bedtime.
- Making sure the bed is used for sleep and sex only.
- Maintaining a consistent schedule for when you go to bed and when you get up.
Fitton says this last point is really crucial. “The best thing you can do for good sleep is keep to a consistent get-up time, and then get sunlight as soon as possible upon arising. You’re priming your body to maintain its natural circadian rhythms.” She says it’s also important to know the difference between feeling sleepy and feeling fatigued. “Sleepy is when you can’t keep your eyes open, and it takes effort to stay awake. Fatigued is ‘tired but wired,’” explains Fitton. “No matter your personality type, use your wind-down to help ‘sleepy’ along. Getting into bed when you’re just fatigued will just result in tossing and turning.”
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