Why Knowing Your Sleep Language Is The Key To Better Rest

“What’s your love language?” is a question you’ve probably heard, and maybe even asked a partner or friend. But, what about your sleep language?

Sleep languages, while not a clinical diagnosis or a term you’ll hear from your doctor, are a helpful way to understand your sleep patterns, and, hopefully, get better rest. The concept was developed by Dr. Shelby Harris, a clinical sleep psychologist in New York, and Calm, which is known for its meditation programs and sleep tips.

So, there are five [sleep] languages, and it doesn’t mean that you’re beholden to one at any time; you can kind of go between some of them, or you might change throughout time,” Harris told HuffPost.

When developing these sleep languages, Harris said, she wanted people to think about their sleep and their sleep issues in a way that is not overwhelming.

The sleep languages (which are detailed below) are easy ways to determine your sleep preferences and problems.

There are 5 sleep languages:

The ‘Words of Worry Sleeper’

“The first is the words of worry sleeper, that one I see all the time, so that’s the person that reports that they’re anxious at night, that their brain is racing and they can’t fall asleep or they wake up early in the morning with a really racing brain,” said Harris.

She added that she saw a huge spike in this kind of sleeper at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ‘Gifted Sleeper’

Have you ever used the phrase “I’m a really good sleeper?” If so, you may fall into the gifted sleeper category.

And while this may be a good thing, Harris said it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying issue.

“[The gifted sleeper is] also the person who … if they’re falling asleep anywhere at any point and they can sleep through anything, we want to start thinking: Is it almost too gifted? That maybe there’s some sleep apnea or something else going on that’s impacting the quality of their sleep?” she said.

This may not always be the case, but if you are able to fall asleep instantly and in a variety of situations, it could be a sign that your body is not getting the rest it needs overnight.

The ‘Too Hot To Handle Sleeper’

The name “too hot to handle sleeper” is pretty self-explanatory, but this kind of sleeper is someone who overheats at night.

Many things can cause someone to be a hot sleeper, but Harris said perimenopause and menopause are common culprits.

The ‘Light As A Feather Sleeper’

“The light as a feather sleeper, that’s the person who is restless, they might sleep OK or sleep enough, but it’s very broken sleep,” Harris said.

Signs of this include frequently waking up tired despite going to bed in time to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

The ‘Routine Perfectionist Sleeper’

According to Harris, the routine perfectionist sleeper is someone who often has some sleep anxiety and tends to be pretty obsessive about their sleep hygiene.

“Some people take it to the point where it’s almost too much,” she said. For example, this person may not travel out of fear of sleep disruptions or won’t have a glass of wine with friends for the same reason.

Sergey Mironov via Getty Images

Dr. Shelby Harris developed five sleep languages based on what she sees in her work as a clinical sleep psychologist.

Knowing your sleep language can help identify obstacles to getting your Zs.

“This is a great jumping-off point for people to say, ‘Where do I go from here?’” said Harris.

But if you are struggling with your sleep, seek out a sleep doctor for help. Your restless nights could be the result of a sleep disorder, for which there are evidence-based treatments, Harris said.

You want to find a board-certified sleep specialist, Harris said. You can find provider databases through the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine or the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

And remember that these sleep languages are not a clinical diagnosis. Instead, think of them as a way to understand your behavior.

“You can kind of see where you might fall and target your sleep treatments toward that,” Harris said.

It’s also helpful to know some fundamental sleep advice.

“When discussing improved health with my patients, the main points I hit on are the aim for a consistent bedtime and sleep schedule,” said Dr. Beth Oller, a family physician based in Kansas. “Regardless of whether it is a weekend or not.”

Harris added that you do not need to go to bed and wake up at the exact same time every day, but try to keep it within a one-hour range.

Oller noted that a dark bedroom is ideal for sleep, as is a cold room.

Additionally, don’t look at your phone while you’re trying to fall asleep or when you wake up in the middle of the night.

“If you find yourself driven to check your phone every time you wake up or roll over, then place it across the room where you would have to get up to check it,” Oller said.

Fitness and time outside can also aid sleep, she noted.

And, remember, sleep is very important for overall health.

“Sleep affects every process of our body,” said Oller.

Beyond having an impact on how we feel the next day, sleep is connected to all aspects of our health.

“Getting consistent good sleep has a link to improved mental health, better metabolism regulation, lower risk of heart disease — getting adequate sleep each night lets our body’s blood pressure decrease and regulate — lower inflammation throughout the body and [strengthen] our immune system,” Oller noted.

Conversely, not getting enough sleep can negatively impact our memory and concentration, she noted.

A sleep-deprived driver has the same delayed response time as someone who is legally drunk, something I frequently remind patients of,” Oller said.

“I often describe sleep as the time our brain and body has to repair,” she said.

In other words, follow the tips above or work with a sleep specialist to ensure you are getting the rest you need.