We push ourselves out into the world to prove we are not weak, lazy, flawed, friendless, too introverted or too sensitive. We make ourselves stay in a heightened state of arousal because we don’t want to give up. We want to keep up with everyone else.
Resting or taking it easy feels like giving up. It looks like slacking or inferiority. It sounds like the boring label peeled from its backing and placed on our chests.
To an introvert and/or highly sensitive person, rest is crucial. It helps us maintain our composure and character. It helps us be us and not a melty, emotional, on-edge, irritable, slow-speaking zombie.
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast. — William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Sleep is an amazing salve that unfrays my nerves, smooths out my brainwaves, enhances my memory, returns the twinkle to my eyes and the life to my step. A good night’s sleep is miraculous. I go to sleep a droopy, drab, wilted flower and emerge eight hours later an alive and colorful bloom. Spirit transformed.
Since my ex-husband moved out and my children have outgrown their baby monitors, I sleep better. My room is quiet, my blinds are tightly closed and my bed is enormous. All that is conducive to quality sleeping but since I don’t want to sleep alone for the rest of my life, I make concessions for the right (silent sleeper) guy. Love is worth interrupted sleep, but not much else is.
Those of us with highly attuned nervous systems already experience most things at an acutely aware level. Lack of sleep makes a sensitive person unbearably sensitive.
The stress hormone, cortisol, appears in high levels in people who are sleep deprived. This accounts for the strung out feeling we get when we are not sleeping. It, unfortunately, is a vicious circle. Stress leads to poor sleep. Poor sleep leads to stress and overstimulation.
What not to do in bed
I’m not going to give you a list of things to do in order to get a good night’s rest. The Huffington Post does that weekly. I thought I would tell you what I have learned, as a sensitive introvert, about getting restorative sleep or rest.
In The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Elaine Aron says that a regular schedule and a calm routine before bed are important to her, otherwise she lies in bed all stirred up for hours. I relate to this. The schedule isn’t as important to me ( or is it?) as the calm routine.
Towards the end of my marriage, my husband and I would save all of our serious and emotional talks until just before bed because that is the only time we had alone without interruptions. We would stay up late discussing major life decisions. Crying and sadness permeated the heavy talks. Needless to say, by the time we were done talking we were both wired and exhausted. Our minds swirling and our bodies buzzing. The next morning we were both death warmed over with puffy eyes. There is no worse time to discuss unresolvable issues than right before bed. Emotions are sleep detrimental. You may pass out from sheer weariness but if you wake up later in the night you will never get back to sleep.
Now, if your issues are resolvable, I do suggest working them out before sleep. That way you can rest with a feeling of satisfaction and resolution. Just don’t stay up too late working on them. Your energy and clarity fade as the night goes on.
Keep the interruptions to a minimum during the night. Kids in and out of the bedroom is a huge sleep robber. I don’t think as a sensitive person I could ever handle a family bed. Too many arms and legs and too much breathing. I even used to turn my daughter’s baby monitor way down because she was a big sleep sigher. She didn’t need me but every couple of hours she would let out a little girl sigh. It was cute but put my mind and body on alert. All of a sudden, I’m awake wondering if she is awake and if she is going to call, Mommy, at any second.
Pets can pose the same potential interruption threat. If you have a dog who checks in and out of everyone’s rooms in the night like a cheater in a cheap motel then you may lose some sleep. Jumping up on the bed or dog snoring, although at times delightful, can also be a sleep stealer. It took my friend six months to figure out he should take his dog’s collar off at night so its jingling wouldn’t bother everyone’s sleep. Dog nails on hardwood floors can be an irritant too. Clip their nails or keep the door to your bedroom closed.
I used to sleep with someone whose farts were so loud they woke me up. Talk about a rude awakening.
What to do in bed
If at all possible, have an orgasm. The endorphin wash that spreads over your body will ease all tension and ease your body and mind into Never Never Land. I don’t necessarily recommend a super active, swinging from the ceiling romp right before bed, just because it may take a while for the stimulation to abate and by the end of the day you are probably not flush with energy anyway, but if you can manage it or a slow sensual intimate connection with your mate then I say go for it.
If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, I recommend picking up a book (not technology, too bright and stimulating) and reading until you are sleepy again.
I also recommend taking a magnesium capsule (around 100mg). Magnesium helps with muscle and nervous system relaxation, according to numerous articles like this one.
I have also had luck using breathing exercises or meditation to get me back to sleep during anxious nights. I visualize my body as pure light or pure energy and let it mesh seamlessly with everything around me. No weight, no boundaries.
Get protective of your sleep
Some of you may know that I am going to speak at and attend the first ever Sacred Introvert Retreat in Glastonbury, England this May. Initially, I agreed to room with the tour’s creator, Lisa Avebury, and help her throughout the retreat as a sort of right-hand woman. As the weeks went by, I started to get a little panicked thinking about ten days away from home with strangers and no room of my own to escape to at the end of the day. Even, in my own busy home, I have my bedroom sanctuary to renew in at night. Now, Lisa is a wonderful, amazing woman but what if I wanted to take a nap during the day? Would she be in the room? What if I’m exhausted and don’t want to talk at night? What if she is a sigher? I started to worry I would not get proper rest and therefore be a harpy shrew on the trip and worse when I got home. I decided to use my voice and set up boundaries so that I could foresee a relaxing trip rather than one where I had to be on the whole time. I asked Lisa if I could get a room of my own. She said that would be no problem. Sigh.:)
Please don’t hesitate to tell your loved ones you have to be home at a certain time in order to get the right amount of sleep. Don’t hesitate to ask for quiet. Don’t push yourself into a heightened state of arousal just because you feel you should keep up. Take care of yourself in order to be your best self.
How important is sleep to you? How do you protect your sleep time? What happens to your mind and body when your sleep is compromised?