Do Introverts Need More Sleep? Not Necessarily, But Here's Why It Might Feel That Way
At the risk of sounding like an 87-year-old granny, I’ll be honest with you, friends: Socializing tires me TF out. Maybe it’s because I spend the majority of my time writing articles from the comfort of my dining room table with no one to talk to but my tabby cat, or the fact that being a homebody all my life has limited my ability to properly function outside my apartment for hours at a time. Either way, I’m beginning to think introverts need more sleep than any other personality type, if not for any other reason aside from the obvious: Too much social interaction takes up way too much of our energy. The question of whether this statement is factual or I’m just being a drama queen, though, is up to science to decide.
So far, the jury’s out on this one, and probably for good reason. Sure, any time I have jam-packed weeks with a work event here, a happy hour there, and back-to-back family gatherings on the weekend, by Sunday night, I’m practically begging for mercy from the social gods — that, or I’m passing out by 9 p.m. and sleeping through my alarm the next morning. The thing is, though, anyone who’s not super extroverted or, you know, superhuman, would likely have the same reaction. So do introverts really need more sleep to function? Give yourself some credit, friend; if you feel like your introverted personality requires an earlier bedtime than most, you’re likely not as high-maintenance as you think, at least not in the sleep department.
Introverts don’t necessarily need more sleep than extroverts (or anyone else, for that matter), but they definitely need more rest than most people — and yes, there's a difference between "rest" and "sleep."
While part of me loves opening my calendar and seeing a ton of fun stuff going on every month, social overload gives me anxiety, even if it’s with my own family. What can I say? I’m an introvert; it’s just who I am, guys. Having said that, though, introverts aren’t necessarily antisocial (I know I’m certainly not). It's just that we tend to get overwhelmed by social interaction more easily than others, and mind you, we mean no offense at all to our loved ones and friends (you’re all great people); it’s just something that happens to us both mentally and physically.
According to Perpetua Neo, a psychologist based in the UK, introverts and extroverts don’t just have different personality traits; they're two completely different biological specimens. See, Neo told Business Insider that introverts typically have a lower dopamine sensitivity (dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain connected with the feeling of being rewarded) than extroverts, and basically, that means introverts are often perfectly fine — some might say happiest, even — when spending time on their own. Extroverts, on the other hand, need a lot more social interaction to help them feel stimulated. When introverts are thrown into social situations, it’s likely they'll feel overstimulated, to the point where they simply feel overwhelmed, as if their energy levels are literally depleting.
“So essentially what happens is after too much social stimulation, whether we're talking about small groups, or a noisy overstimulated context, an introvert's nervous system is overwhelmed," Neo told Business Insider. Again, this isn’t because they’re necessarily neurotic or socially anxious; it’s just how their brains work.
Either way, too much social interaction tends to exhaust most introverts, requiring them to recharge in one way or another.
So with all of that in mind, what’s the deal with introverts and sleep deprivation? Well, in short, it’s not actually a thing. According to Neo, introverts can definitely suffer from what’s called “small talk disorder,” which basically means if they come in contact with a ton of different people all at once, but never really get to know any of them outside of their name, what they do for work, and other basics covered in small-talk conversations, they’ll feel exhausted, and may end up sleeping much longer than they really need, just to recuperate and restore their energy levels. From what I can tell, though, snoozing for 10 or more hours isn’t exactly necessary here; it’s just one of the many ways introverts could cope with social exhaustion.
To confirm this theory, I reached out to the founder of SleepZoo, Chris Brantner, and as far as the certified sleep science coach is concerned, introverts don’t need more sleep than extroverts; they just need more time alone when they're awake — which, if you think about it, actually makes perfect sense. Rather than clocking in nine to 10 hours of sleep per night (which, BTW, you really shouldn’t do, because too much or too little sleep can negatively affect your health), Brantner tells Elite Daily that most introverts would benefit more from dedicating an hour or two every night to “me” time by coming up with their own relaxing, nighttime routine. This will give introverts plenty of time in a quiet, more secluded environment that allows them to truly wind down and recharge.
A good place to start, Brantner says, is to turn off your smartphone, along with any other tech devices that might become a distraction. From there, your time is 100 percent, unapologetically yours. You could take a warm bath to de-stress, go through the motions of a relaxing yoga flow, do a meditative practice, journal a bit, crack open a book you've been meaning to read, or even just listen to music. The goal is to relax your mind and regroup after a lot of (maybe too much) socializing. And yes, you can also sleep, too — just not too much, OK?