Not to be dramatic or anything, but the way you sleep sets you up for the way you live your life. If you get enough rest, it’s easier to take on the day. If you don’t, it can quickly mess with how you feel — both mentally and physically. That’s why it’s good to know your sleep language, aka your go-to way of catching ZZZs.
The five sleep languages were created to help identify how you sleep, says Dr. Shelby Harris, PsyD, DBSM, a clinical sleep psychologist and Calm Sleep Expert, who partnered with Calm — a sleep and meditation app — to coin the term. It’s like the five love languages, which describe how you like to give and receive love, but for the way you rest. And, just like the former does for your relationships, your sleep language can impact how you function. Good sleep is crucial to your overall well-being, after all, so knowing which category (or categories) you fall into can help you know where to focus your bedtime efforts.
There’s a lot that can keep you up at night, but there’s also a lot you can do to ensure you get enough sleep. So, what kind of sleeper are you? Here’s what to know about the five sleep languages and how each can get better rest.
What Are The Five Sleep Languages?
1. The “Words Of Worry” Sleeper
A words of worry sleeper’s brain turns on the moment they climb into bed. Instead of relaxing or falling asleep, they lie there and think about their to-do list, all their regrets, and that embarrassing thing they said in second grade. Harris adds that they also tend to wake up in the middle of the night with a lot of anxiety.
2. The “Gifted” Sleeper
Gifted sleepers can fall asleep anywhere. Sitting up on a bus? On a friend’s couch? Camping in the woods? It doesn’t matter — they will sleep and they will sleep soundly. “The gifted sleeper often prides themselves on their ability to fall asleep easily in any situation,” Harris says. This sleep language is really good at taking naps, too.
3. The “Routine Perfectionist” Sleeper
Extensive bedtime routines are essential for the perfectionist sleeper. They start early with a lengthy skin care regimen, then they get their house in perfect order, arrange their sheets just so, and finish with 10 spritzes of lavender oil. The routine helps them fall asleep, but without it, they’re totally lost. According to Harris, routine perfectionists actually try too hard to get good sleep.
4. The “Too Hot To Handle” Sleeper
A too-hot-to-handle sleeper can’t fall asleep unless the room is icy cold and they’re wearing the lightest pair of PJs imaginable. If not, they wake up coated in sweat and have to throw off the blankets or move to the couch. This sleeper style frequently impacts people who have hot flashes due to peri-menopause, Harris says.
5. The “Light As A Feather” Sleeper
Light as a feather sleepers always wake up tired, even if they spent eight hours in bed. This sleep language is often caused by medication side effects that prevent them from falling into a deep sleep, or a sleep disorder like sleepwalking, sleep talking, restless legs, or teeth grinding, Harris says. Not prioritizing their sleep might also be to blame. If this is your sleep language, you’ve definitely fallen asleep with the TV on after drinking a coffee.
How To Get Better Sleep
If you’re a gifted sleeper, keep scrolling. For everyone else, rest assured that it’s possible to get a better night’s sleep. One way is by practicing good sleep hygiene, Harris says. This means establishing a schedule that you stick to every single night in order to train your brain to sleep. It also means doing whatever you can to create the coziest sleep space possible.
To practice good sleep hygiene, remember to wind down in the evening. Put your laptop away, dim the lights, and make sure your bedroom is cool — all factors that make it easier to sleep. If you tend to scroll through stressful apps or drink iced coffees late into the day, try reading and drinking herbal tea instead to get rid of jitters. Small changes like these can make a big difference.
You can also listen to green noise, a soothing song, or a relaxing soundtrack on an app like Calm. According to Harris, a words of worry sleeper might benefit from these three methods to release tension and drown out the brain chatter. Of course, it’s also worth it to address anxiety and other mental health concerns with a therapist, as well as any physical health concerns, like waking up in a sweat or grinding your teeth, with your doctor.
Is It Possible To Change Your Sleep Language?
With practice, you can slowly start to change your sleep language by making small adjustments like the ones listed above. As your new habits sink in, it’s possible you’ll transform from a light as a feather sleeper to a gifted sleeper — or at least get a little bit closer.
Your sleep language can also fluctuate and change all on its own, which means you aren’t necessarily stuck with it for life. As you get older, you might outgrow a sleep language, just like you outgrow other habits, says Harris. You can also leave a sleep language behind as your circumstances change.
How To Talk To Your Partner About Sleep Languages
Your sleep language can also come into play if you sleep next to a partner. If you’re a gifted sleeper and they’re a light as a feather sleeper, for instance, it’s possible you’re accidentally impacting each other’s ability to get enough rest. If it turns out that one or both of you has been lying awake, “see what you can do to help one another’s sleep,” says Harris. “If that’s still a struggle, talk with a sleep specialist to help you get better rest as a couple.” Just like love languages, the more you know about yourself — and each other — the better.
Scott, AJ. (2021). Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101556.
Walters, EM. (2020). Sleep and wake are shared and transmitted between individuals with insomnia and their bed-sharing partners. Sleep. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz206.