The five sleep languages that will transform your slumber

The five sleep languages that will transform your slumber

We've all heard of love languages, but have you heard about sleep languages? Drawing on the concept of the five love languages, there are five different sleep patterns we tend to fall into - and once you know them, it simplifies your whole approach.

The plethora of advice on how to improve sleep can be overwhelming, but understanding your unique sleep patterns and needs is where it’s at, according to Shelby Harris, PsyD. A behavioural sleep medicine provider and sleep expert with Calm, the sleep and meditation app. Harris  suggests that everyone's sleeplessness has a different origin and pattern, meaning that everyone requires a different solution.

After observing sleep-challenged patients for several years and writing books like The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia, Harris noticed a handful of categories almost all of her patients fit into - and so the five sleep languages were developed.

Learning the five sleep languages 

1. The Words-of-Worry Sleeper

Do you find yourself unable to turn off your thoughts at night? You may be a words-of-worry sleeper. This type of sleeper struggles with a racing mind that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. It could be actual worries or it could just be a barrage of thoughts turned up to high volume - either way, it’s keeping you awake. 

How to soothe the sleep worries…

According to Harris, turning off your worrying brain isn’t just like turning off a light switch - instead, it helps to think of it like a dimmer. Essentially, you need to ease yourself into sleep, which is where a mindful bedtime routine can be useful. In an ideal world, you’d close up computers and screens at least an hour before bed, but start with 10 minutes and work your way up.

Harris also recommends cultivating a regular mindfulness practice to quiet the mind and hone in on a single point of focus. It may be listening to guided meditations or sleep sounds at night, but it can also be a daytime meditation practice that helps train your brain to ease into slumber more effectively. 



2. The Gifted Sleeper

The gifted sleeper can fall asleep easily, seemingly at any time. Lucky, right? Well - not always. 

While this “language” may seem like a blessing, it can actually be a curse. Harris explains that falling asleep easily doesn't necessarily mean you're getting quality sleep. It's important to ensure you're creating the right environment for quality rest, including avoiding sleep-sabotaging behaviours like excessive alcohol intake, late-night exercise, or using bright devices in the lead-up to sleep.

How to put the ‘good’ back in a good night’s sleep…

When you fall asleep easily, you may not even notice you have a problem with your sleep, so pay attention to how you feel upon waking, as well as energy and focus throughout the day. Then assess your sleep hygiene - AKA the things you do to get yourself ready for shut-eye. 

If it’s all hype - think action movies, blue light screens, drinking alcohol, eating large meals close to bedtime, or vigorous exercise late in the evening - then consider revising some of your activities. Try a few more restful habits like a time limit on phone apps, playing gentle music, dimming lights, swapping alcohol for water, and giving yourself plenty of time to digest your food before hitting the pillow. 

And if you find yourself needing excessive sleep or never feeling fully rested, it might be worth exploring if you suffer from any sleep-related issues like sleep apnea. 



3. The Routine Perfectionist Sleeper

Are you someone who relies heavily on a specific nighttime routine to fall asleep? You may be a routine perfectionist sleeper. While having a routine can be beneficial for some, for others, being too rigid can lead to anxiety around sleep, leaving you under a heap of pressure if any part of your routine changes. Which, as we know, tends to leave us with little to no rest.

How to loosen up on the sleep routine…

Harris suggests practising flexibility in your routine and letting go of the idea that certain things must happen for you to sleep well. This might start with switching up the order of your routine every so often - if you brush your teeth before getting into your PJs, then try doing the inverse. 

As for the anxiety and stress that arises when things don’t go according to plan, Harris advises mindful tools like breathwork to regulate your nervous system. Try the box breath exercise of inhaling for a count of four, holding for four, exhaling for four, and holding for four again. Repeat - with or without the breath retention - and focus on the counting to quiet the rising anxiety. Another mindful technique is the body scan, which can be found in guided meditations or done on your own. You just start at the head and work your way through the body, mentally scanning how the different muscles feel and what you notice about them.

Breath is one of the few things actually in your control, which is exactly what Harris suggests focusing on. For example, when you’re at a hotel, “You can ask to be on a higher floor and away from the elevator, but you can’t control if the person in the room next door slams their door at 2am.” Over time, you can work on your mind, breath, and stress management to ease your anxiety around sleep.




4. The Too-Hot-to-Handle Sleeper

Struggling with temperature regulation at night? You're not alone. Harris notes that issues with overheating during sleep are common, especially among menopausal and pregnant women. And this temperature problem is going to be a big barrier to you enjoying quality sleep - not to mention your partner if you share your bed!

How to keep things cool in the bedroom…

Keeping your bedroom temperature cool and using moisture-wicking bedding can help regulate your temperature and improve your sleep quality. We love our organic linen sheets and all-natural bedding for this very reason. We also love our organic wool quilts, with their natural breathability making them suitable for a variety of night temperatures, not to mention zero irritations from harsh chemicals used in materials or manufacturing. 

You can also switch to natural material PJs, create better airflow through your home, and take a warm shower before bed, as this helps your body better regulate its higher temperature. Here’s a few more sustainable hacks to staving off the heat during sleep.




5. The Light-as-a-Feather Sleeper

As the name suggests, this sleep language refers to people who sleep lightly and wake frequently throughout the night. If you’re a light-as-a-feather sleeper, chances are you’ll feel like you're ‘skimming’ the surface of sleep, never fully sinking into restorative rest. 

Lots of factors can contribute to this sleep style, including stress, medication, alcohol, blue light, and teeth grinding.

How to drop deeper into sleep…

Setting consistent wake and sleep times, while avoiding daytime naps, are a couple of ways Harris suggests improving your sleep quality. You should also avoid caffeine in the afternoon and night, and try using an eye mask or ear plugs to help block the distractions pulling you out of your slumber. 

Your sleep routine can also be influenced by your circadian rhythm, which means when you wake up, you should aim to get into the sun to kickstart the body’s internal clock. In the evenings, this means keeping screens to a minimum, wearing blue light glasses, and dimming lights as you prepare for bed. Underlying problems like teeth grinding or mouth-breathing can also be addressed with nasal strips, mouthguard, and even special mouth tape to help you breathe better through your nose. Always chat to your doctor first if you’re keen to address underlying sleep problems.


Love your sleep language

Understanding your sleep language can provide valuable insights into your sleep patterns and behaviours. And with so many of us relating to one or more of these sleep language categories, it can help crystallise the issues we need to address.

By making small changes based on your sleep language, you can improve your sleep quality and wake up feeling more refreshed and energised - the ultimate good sleep goal.