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Managing effective sleep seems to make me a better INTJ

Monday June 11, 2018

“Other people have big problems. But I don’t really have any big problems. Isn’t that amazing? I’m doing pretty well!”

This was one of my first thoughts after waking up from a nap yesterday.

It was funny, because of course I do have big problems to work on, just like anybody else. But that optimistic expression is representative of the way sleep helps me. In the tradition of extraverted thinking, I’ve been taking measurements and refining my measuring systems. And sleep is right up there at the top of my focus chart right now, when it comes to measuring things.

“I took a nap and otherwise took care of my need for rest during the day” is a first measurement. Not at all, somewhat, or “yes. definitely”.

“I went to bed on time or early, so that I got at least five 90-minute sleep cycles” is another one. Not at all, somewhat, or “yes, definitely.”

If you’re an INTJ and you’re getting six sleep cycles consistently, that’s pretty awesome. I can’t do that all the time, but when I do, the next day has a really good chance of not interfering with my life plans.

When I’m well-rested, it’s like my intuition becomes much more reasonable to work with. It’s hopeful about things. As a result, I can extravert myself more easily: I can open my mind to tasks on my to-do list, describe them, set boundaries around them and categorize them, describe the time and effort taken, and refer to frameworks to gain additional leverage.

When I’m not well-rested, I easily fall into traps like thinking that the world is against me, I’ll never reach my goals, etc. My intuition goes straight toward “nothing here will turn out well at all” and I have little energy to spend on the completion of medium- to difficult-level tasks.

Managing good sleep can be extremely difficult. For example, if a really hard problem comes up, there’s no getting around it—getting to sleep will be that much harder. In cases where sleep is impossible, I do find (and it appears that other researchers have also found) that meditation can bring close to a similar result. Guided meditations are sometimes really nice, as they provide structure and allow focus to be pulled away from the stressful object.

In order to get the best sleep possible, focusing on breathing seems to help me. Long exhaling, and not as long on inhaling. I can also get an extra boost from a “comfort intuition,” like a vague sense of a place and time and atmosphere that gives me comfort. For example, the sense of sunlight warming the leather upholstery inside a car on a spring day. (These are incredibly subjective, based on past experience, so I’m sorry if that gives you choking asthma or something) It’s not really that easy to describe and there may be some other weird stuff in there, like a smell I can’t quite detect, or some other scene from a TV show overlaid on top.

After a nap I get the sense that I only have so much time before I run low on doing-things energy. It’s not really an urgent feeling, but more like a feeling of intellectual readiness. So it’s naturally easy to prioritize and make smarter choices. I also get the sense that no matter what I do, things will be OK. Those two thoughts are interesting, when juxtaposed: I need to make smart choices, and I’ll probably be able to pull it off.

Another factor I’ve measured: Sometimes I’ll wake up and feel grumpy or experience a headache, or otherwise feel not-so-good. It’s been my experience that going back to sleep for a little while or just staying in bed and relaxing longer can quickly reverse that.

Finally, sleep is a “taking care of me” activity. It requires attention to one’s feelings and body sensations. I don’t believe it’s going to be naturally easy for INTJs by a long shot. As usual, you may be nodding your head through this one because you know the theory, but putting it into practice is another thing entirely. My advice if you’re having that issue is to develop your own sleep science—measure your experience, develop your own theories, and see what works for you. Even if it’s the same thing others have experienced, it’ll be yours and there’s a lot of evidence that such an introverted approach will give you, the introvert, more interest and motivation to follow through.

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