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Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
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This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

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Sleep and the Sensitive Person


sleep in blue sheet

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.

couple sleepingSince 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.

Sleepus Interruptus

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

abbey glastonbury

Where we’ll be staying during the Sacred Introvert Retreat in Glastonbury England

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?


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  1. […] Brenda Knowles describe sleeping like this : […]

  2. Tawni May 12, 2015 at 11:15 am - Reply

    I’ve found that working out helps me to have a more sound sleep even if I don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.

    • Brenda Knowles May 12, 2015 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Yes, I think exercise has the same effect on my sleep. I think it helps the body dispel of stress chemicals and leads to a deeper sleep. Thanks for your comment.:)

  3. Rox March 26, 2015 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    “If at all possible, have an orgasm.”

    God, I love ya, sister. That one I’m not sure entirely how to take. 🙂

    Well… I was about to head up to bed… an hour ago… it’s a practice of a lifetime. Also…belly breathing, 2 count inhale, 4 count exhale… dreamland here we come! Thanks Brenda. Beautiful post, so helpful! xoxoxo

    • Brenda Knowles March 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Rox!!! 🙂 🙂 Orgasms are good for us, yes? 😉 I’ve had a few people comment on that suggestion including my beau. You’re so good with the breathing. I have a hard time exhaling for longer than I inhale. What does that say about me? 🙂 Thanks for commenting dear friend.

  4. dhollan1227 March 26, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Brenda. I am a loud person, very talkative. Sometimes I write on the inside of my palm “JUST SHUT UP”. It takes more than a conscious effort to just listen without contributing or better put injecting my thoughts. My efforts must also be accompanied by a very strong will , to sit quietly. I’m trying to just listen. I strive to be more introverted. Extroversion leads me wishing I had thought more before I spoke. Speaking instinctively or impulsively reveals an immaturity and a lack of self discipline. Just saying… One good thing for me is that at least I’m aware and I am trying to get better. God bless!

    • Brenda Knowles March 27, 2015 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      There are positive attributes of extroversion as well. Don’t forget those — making others feel relaxed, gathering people together, easily letting others know what you’re thinking, keeping communication going, etc. You sound very self-aware. It seems like someone has told you to stifle yourself. Enthusiasm is great! Just keep up the respect for others who are different and you’ll be awesome.:)

  5. Spinster March 24, 2015 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Sleep is EXTREMELY important to me. Without enough sleep, forget it – the day is usually shot. 😐

    • Brenda Knowles March 26, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply

      I’m the same. If I get sleep I am a freakin’ goddess.;)

  6. YES! Sleep is such a freaking ongoing issue for me, Brenda, and has been for much of my adult life. I have this love/hate relationship where I know how important it is, and I know how much better I feel when I get enough… but it almost becomes a form of self-sabotage / self-punishment / self-SOMETHING to deprive myself.

    I pretty much don’t sleep with people other than my husband in the room now, and even with him (he’s not often a quiet sleeper), I sometimes end up going to sleep in another room in our spare bed. I’m actually about to head off for a 100km charity walk event this weekend, and I made a point of saying up front to my team “Sorry, I’m not going to sleep well if I share a place with y’all… and I NEED to sleep well before I do this walk. So I’m going to need to book my own room in a motel and then meet up with you all the next morning”

    They were pretty understanding, and so’s my husband. But I do miss the opportunity for connection and just plain snuggling that being able to sleep easily next to him would create.

    Of course, when I travel, I’ve just started factoring the cost of singles’ supplements into my travel costs. SO GLAD that’s not going to be an issue on the Sacred Introvert Retreat 🙂

    Look forward to seeing you there, Brenda!



    • Brenda Knowles March 23, 2015 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Good for you for protecting your sleep when you travel and when needed, at home. I completely understand being torn between sleep and snuggling with your husband. After my divorce, I loved sleeping alone. So quiet and I could take up the whole bed!:) But… eventually I wanted someone to be there when I reached out in the night.
      I am relieved to know I’ll have my own room on the retreat. I figure we can all gab and giggle together at night and then drift to our separate rooms for real rest. Can’t wait to meet you!

  7. Brenda Knowles March 21, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

    I just read that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth three after midnight as far as sleep quality goes. I think that is true. That first abyss of sleep we fall into is the deepest and most restorative. If you can stretch that early sleep cycle into four or more hours I think our bodies and minds are better healed. I feel for you and your broken up sleep. I don’t do well with that. I know if I have had a couple of dream segments in my overnight sleep that I have experienced the most rejuvenating sleep. The REM (dream) phase of sleep is supposed to be the most psychically restorative. I wish that for you, lots of it. Protect your sleep. Tell your husband he’ll benefit from your renewed energy.:) Thanks for sharing.

  8. Morgan Nichols Writer March 21, 2015 at 6:34 am - Reply

    I relate a lot to what Ekrst says – my mind is too busy at bedtime if I have had a stimulating day without time to process and simply ‘be’. I have a very talkative son who loves to share everything he thinks of with me, and I spend a lot of time on the computer doing different bits of work and creativity – all of which can add up to a whirring brain! I am a stimulation-seeking introvert though so like to be busy and engaged – this contradiction plays havoc with my sleep. I’m learning to have a certain amount of down time BEFORE bedtime so I can process – trying to switch computers off etc at least an hour before I try to sleep. Lots of helpful suggestions in this post, Brenda – thank you 🙂

    • Brenda Knowles March 21, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

      It sounds like you know what you need to do. As a mother and computer worker, I completely understand all the stimulation and ‘noise’ you are subjected to. As I said to ekrst, I have learned to create buffers of free/me between activities but it is hard to ‘turn off’ people.;) I used to always read (a book, not online) before bed to calm me but now I am learning to relax my mind by talking with my significant other. It’s required some biological rhythm retraining but I think it’s working. Best of luck to you! Remember, kids grow up. Mine now need mellow time of their own. Yay!

  9. ekrst March 20, 2015 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Sleep is great and I am a sensitive sleeper, but what I find more disturbing than anything else is my own mind. If I don’t achieve enough quiet time before bed, my mind keeps me up. Routines are great, but the most important thing for me as an introvert is to have enough time in the day to reflect on everything and clear my head. It’s not the bedtime schedule or atmosphere, it’s everything during the day that matters to me. When I am talked at all day from all directions, I can’t sleep no matter how rigid I am about procedures.

    Unfortunately, that’s happened a lot recently and there’s not much I can do about it.

    A good day time with enough quiet is what I find most important in protecting my sleep time.

    • Brenda Knowles March 21, 2015 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Excellent point! I am that way too. If my day is frenetic, my mind is frenetic. Same if it’s an emotional day. I, too, need time to process all the details and/or emotions in order to sleep well. Thanks for sharing your insight. I hope you find some peace during your day soon. I say schedule it into your day. I know it’s not always possible but I have learned to create buffers of free time around activities if I can. I’m a better partner, worker, parent, etc. because of it. 🙂

  10. Sacred Introvert (@SKRDINTRVRT) March 20, 2015 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    What happens if you have a dog who farts really loud! 🙂 Love this BTW! I have to tell you I was having some of the same concerns you were. Glad you had the courage to speak up for both of us! Lisa A

    • Brenda Knowles March 21, 2015 at 11:09 am - Reply

      Oh my! I don’t know what I would do with a dog like that.;) That’s why we have guinea pigs.:) Glad we’re on the same page. So looking forward to Glastonbury!!!!

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