Hey Sleep Enthusiast,
We all know how social connection is not only fun, but it’s also vital for our well-being and relaxation. When working with clients as a sleep coach, we assess how the different aspects of their lifestyle support their well-being, relaxation and Restful Sleep. Including how socialising is a part of that.
As many people tend to see their friendship group and wider community at restaurants and bars, late nights can come as a regular part of the social experience. Which can work against creating relaxation in the evening and getting more sleep. A hesitant question that can come up when reviewing social time is ‘is it even possible to socialise without feeling drained?’.
When you don’t want to miss out on seeing friends, but desire some balance, it can seem daunting to consider alternative ways of socialising. Is that something that other people even do?! I’m here to tell you that socialising can be restful! As well as sharing ideas for ways to get more ‘restful socialising’. Let’s start with understanding more about what goes on in our systems when it comes to socialising and rest.
Why can you feel drained after socialising?
As much as you love your friends and enjoy getting together to create fun times and memories, lots of stimulation can also leave you exhausted. You may have heard of a ‘social hangover’, it’s a term that became well-known during times of the pandemic, when people started seeing groups of friends again. It speaks to the contrast of being around other people, often in busy places, and how this can take some adjusting to after more solitary or peaceful time.
Whilst the term came about from times of social separation, it’s stuck because it acknowledges how different people have varying preferences when it comes to social time. For example, those who may be more sensitive to social stimulation or introverted may take longer to charge their social batteries. As well as neurodivergent people, who may not have the same ease of understanding others, so expend more energy in social interactions.
When socialising and recovery become ‘all or nothing’
From working with people who struggle with sleep, an ‘all or nothing’ approach to socialising and resting can be common. That can look like being the life of the party when out, always joining big groups for a meal, or dancing until the end of the night at the club. Recuperating the rest from there can look like giving yourself full permission to spend extended days on the sofa indulging in treats and exerting very little energy. Downtime can even turn into camping out on the sofa and abandoning the bed altogether.
On a surface level, this may seem like a good way to get balance and recover. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t flow with the natural circadian rhythms of the body or allow the nervous system to come into a place of rest. Meaning you can frustratingly still miss out on the nourishing rest needed. This is why you might struggle to sleep at bedtime, even after a day where you let yourself slob out. It’s because there’s still stimulation in your system that gets in the way of drifting off into a Restful Sleep.
Ultimately we all have different preferences for levels of social stimulation that feel nourishing. These can be based on lifestyle factors and preferences, as well as what feels comfortable for our bodies. When we push past those, we can become overwhelmed, with a social hangover being a cautionary sign to take notice of before getting to a point of burnout. So the key is to find ways to enjoy social time and find rest that feel more manageable.
How to work out your preferences for levels of social stimulation
As a sleep coach, I work with clients to gather insights from their experiences to help them find sustainable levels of social and restful activities (rather than the ‘all or nothing’ extremes). ‘Doing things in gentle ways’ is one of the Restful Sleep core values. It is a way of being that I invite clients into as we get into the process of reviewing and experimenting with aspects of their lifestyle that may support their Restful Sleep.
To get curious about this out for yourself, there’s some field work to do! Your experiment is to try out different types of socialising and restful activities, whilst making a conscious effort to notice how you feel during and after them. You could do this by making notes in a journal or using a notes app on your phone. That way, you can gather some insights for yourself in terms of what may feel more manageable or what may not give you so much fulfilment.
Bonus points if you can note your overall energy levels for the day and maybe even try activities a couple of times - spotting any differences between when you’re feeling energised and when you may be on one of those making-it-through kind of days. That way you have different options for how you may wish to enjoy social time, depending on your energy levels and other commitments that week.
Activities you can try for different levels of stimulation in socialising and rest
It can be challenging to make a change in the ways you typically spend quality time with your friends and family. As well as the effort involved in creating new habits, it also takes being willing to try something new and see how open family and friends may be to socialising in new ways.
Below are some ideas for more restful ways to socialise with friends. You could start out by inviting one or two people along to one of these activities and build up to add more people if there may be interest.
Chilled evenings at home,
Cooking together as a group,
Going to watch the sunset,
Doing creative projects together,
Working in the garden with friends,
Taking a class together and cheering each other on afterwards.
As these kinds of activities can sometimes seem unfamiliar from the usual big meal or going to the bar, it can be helpful to remember that not everyone may be open to attend. This is when it’s important to stick with your intentionality of trying out a restful social activity and seeing what works for you, rather than giving up on your idea if you don’t get as much interest. It’s also where sleep coaching can be helpful to keep things in perspective and stay on track.
Once you get into a rhythm of more restful socialising, you get time to connect with family and friends in a way that feels comfortable, without feeling drained. Plus, you can then choose to attend the more stimulating social events when you genuinely have the energy for them.
Making choices that support your well-being and Restful Sleep
If you’re curious to learn more about the different ways you can review your lifestyle to support your well-being and sleep, you can check out the guides for the different considerations for your mind, body and environment. These give an idea of the kind of things we look at in sleep coaching. With one-on-one sessions you’ll get support where you’re at, a tailored plan for finding your Restful Sleep, as well as accountability along the way.
You can also check out the Restful Sleep online course, which offers more flexibility in terms of fitting in sessions around your lifestyle. That way you can find times to get guidance in assessing your lifestyle in terms of what fulfils you and what brings relaxation, to ultimately get Restful Sleep.