You may have read or heard the expression that "introverts are wired differently." That means, among other things, we process information differently than extroverts. According to Marti Olsen Laney in her book, The Introvert Advantage, the introvert's brain is "dominated by the long, slow acetylcholine pathway." (Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter.) Laney says this explains why introverts need "reflection time without pressure" and "need to sleep on decisions in order to benefit from the way they process information."

Are you doing your introvert brain a favor and getting all the sleep you need? Read on; you just might discover a way to enhance your (already prodigious) information processing skills.

How much sleep do you need each night? How much is enough?

There is no magic number; sleep needs are individual. The typical adult will need from 7-9 hours per night. To determine how much YOU need, keep track of how many hours you sleep each night and how you feel the next day. Do you wake up feeling tired or unrefreshed? Can't function without hourly injections of Starbucks coffee? Did you nod off during that boring meeting at the office? Have you developed a set of "tricks" to keep you from falling asleep at the wheel? Are you struggling to manage your weight? These are all possible indications that you may not be getting enough sleep for you.

What happens when you don't get enough sleep?

* Decreased ability to concentrate, react, or remember new information (especially relevant to introverts who need REM sleep to process and store information in long-term memory)

* Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. An estimated 100,000 accidents per year are caused by drowsy drivers

* Increased body mass index (sleep deprivation affects appetite-regulating hormones)

* Increased risk of heart problems such as heart attack

* Increased risk for depression and/or substance abuse

How can you improve your sleep quality and quantity?

1. Make sleep a priority - schedule it like any other important activity, and don't treat sleep as the thing you do only after you've done everything else.

2. Practice good sleep hygiene - this means you:

* Establish a consistent sleep schedule (go to bed and get up at the same time everyday, including weekends)

* Use bed only for sleeping and sex (or sex and sleeping). This means, no TV watching, no reading in bed.

* Make the bedroom conducive to sleep - (quiet, dark, and cool)

* Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine 4-6 hours before bedtime

* Exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime

* Avoid daytime naps - if you must, nap no longer than 25 minutes

* Take a hot bath about 90 minutes before bedtime - this will cause a body temperature drop afterwards that helps you feel sleepy.

* Develop a pre-sleep ritual. Pick something relaxing that you can do each night to give your body and brain a signal that it's time to wind down.

3. Rule out a sleep disorder - see your primary care physician if you experience any chronic problems that impair your sleep, such as snoring or persistent insomnia.

Remember, getting better sleep is easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Make sleep a priority

2. Practice good sleep hygiene

3. Rule out any sleep disorders

(c) 2009 Joanne Julius Hunold

Author's Bio: 

Joanne Julius Hunold is a certified professional coach and founder of In Tandem Coaching. She partners with introverted women who undersell themselves. Her clients discover their true value, develop unshakable confidence so that they stop second-guessing themselves, and earn what they are worth. Learn more at intandemcoaching.com.