Neural Science

Your ‘sleep personality’ may be keeping you from getting quality rest. Find out yours

Do you fall asleep as your head hits the pillow, or are you someone who tosses and turns throughout the night?

Whatever sleep quirks you have, knowing your sleep personality and adjusting your habits accordingly might help you get more rest during the night, Shelby Harris, sleep expert and licensed clinical psychologist, told TODAY during a Sept. 1 segment.

Everyone deserves to have a good night’s sleep without suffering through it, she said. And improving your sleep quality starts with figuring out what kind of sleeper you really are.

What are the five sleep personalities?

The busy brain

Someone with the busy brain personality tends to notice that they have racing thoughts or anxiety when they’re trying to fall asleep, Harris explained. “Or it’s just that (the) volume on your brain is at 10, and you can’t turn it down,” she said.

One solution is to do what Harris calls a “brain dump,” which involves journaling, writing a list or meditating to get all those anxious thoughts out. “That helps you to be able to focus your brain and let go of busy thoughts,” she said.

The temperature extremist

It’s not unusual to be affected by the temperature when you’re trying to fall asleep, but the temperature extremist may find themselves waking up sweating — or freezing cold.

The temperature extremist might be “those people who tend to have hot flashes, (such as) women thinking about perimenopause, menopause or night sweats,” Harris says. “But it’s also the person who tends to wake up really cold at night.”

A temperature extremist might find it helpful to keep their bedroom temperature somewhere in the middle. Experts generally recommend keeping the thermostat between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s especially tough to find that middle ground for some couples, though. “Some people have a bed partner that has a totally different internal thermostat,” Harris notes. “That’s a really common thing.”

Also, keep your bedding in mind: “We always tend to use the same comforter for the bed all year,” Harris says. Instead, consider getting two comforters of different weights so you can switch them out as seasons change. Some couples also each have their own comforter, aka the Scandinavian sleep method.

The sensitive sleeper

Some people are just more sensitive to the ambient noises they might hear during the night, and that keeps or wakes them up.

For sensitive sleepers, Harris recommends looking into technological solutions, like noise-blocking earbuds that can be worn overnight. (Not all earplugs are safe to wear while you sleep, so check with your doctor first, Harris notes.)

Sometimes, though, sensitive sleepers are actually dealing with insomnia-related symptoms. If you have insomnia, you might just be on the lookout for anything that’s a potential sleep threat that could wake you up or keep you awake, Harris says. And if that’s the case, it’s important to tackle your insomnia first.

The night owl and the early bird

“The night owl is the person who can sleep enough, but they sleep really late,” Harris explains. On the flip side, the early bird gets enough sleep but wakes up really early. Even though these folks may be able to get enough sleep, that schedule might not be ideal for their other responsibilities.

If you want to shift your sleep schedule, think about the cues you’re giving yourself (called “zeitgebers” in sleep medicine), Harris says. “Are you getting a lot of light or are you really active before bed? That could be making you stay up a lot later,” she says.

It’s also worth talking to your doctor, Harris explains, because they can use tools like light therapy or low-dose melatonin to help you regulate your sleep schedule.

The sandman

People who fall into this category might feel like they’re almost too good at sleeping. But, for some, there might be another issue going on during the night that’s actually preventing them from getting good quality sleep.

That might be sleep apnea or narcolepsy, or it could be overmedication before bed. If you get enough sleep but still wake up feeling tired or routinely fall asleep within 5 minutes, it’s worth talking to a sleep specialist about possible underlying issues.

The most important thing is to pay attention to how you’re sleeping and how you feel. If your current sleep tactics aren’t working for you and these strategies aren’t enough to help, “we have so many wonderful evidence-based treatments that you should definitely talk to your doctor,” Harris says. “You shouldn’t suffer if you’re having routine bad nights.”

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