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Why you might feel drained after socialising (and how it’s possible to make it restful!)

Hey Sleep Enthusiast,

We all know how social connection is not only for enjoyment, 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, including socialising, support their well-being, relaxation and Restful Sleep.

When we get into the work of assessing a client's lifestyle and what may support or take away from their well-being and relaxation (which lead to more Restful Sleep), socialising often comes up with mixed responses. That it can be both energising and, paradoxically, take some time to recover from as well. So that's what this blog article will explore, along with ways to make socialising more restful.

How social connection supports health, well-being and rest

Research shows that socialising benefits us in ways that are interconnected across behavioural, physiological and psychosocial factors. Some points from the last category that broadly relate to mental well-being include:

  • Social support

Receiving emotional support from social connections has been shown to impact mental and physical health in numerous studies and can lead to reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones (Uchino 2006).

  • Personal control

'Social ties may enhance personal control (perhaps through social support), and, in turn, personal control is advantageous for health habits, mental health, and physical health (Mirowsky and Ross 2003; Thoits 2006).'

  • Symbolic meaning

Adding meaning to connections can influence positive choices for health-related behaviour and foster a greater sense of responsibility for health. This can include experiences like belonging in groups or committing to a marriage.

When socialising is typically a nighttime activity

For many people, participating in friendship groups and wider community may involve gatherings that take place at restaurants and bars. This can mean that later nights may be a norm of the usual social experience. When exploring how lively nights could clash with an intention to create relaxation in the evening, a hesistant question I often hear is: 'it is even possible to socialise without feeling drained after?!'.

I'm here to tell you that yes, restful socialising is possible, even during the evening! It just takes finding some alternative ways that work for you and your lifestyle. It may seem daunting to consider restful socialising outside of the usual places and people are often unsure how it may be possible. So let’s start with understanding more about a typical way that people who struggle with sleep may manage their socialising and rest.

When socialising and recovery become ‘all or nothing’

An ‘all or nothing’ approach to socialising and resting can be common for people who experience insomnia. That can look like being the life of the party when out, joining large groups for a meal, or dancing until the end of the night at the club. Going big or going home! If your social time involves changes like staying up later than usual, being in a loud environment and consuming alcohol, you are adding extra stimulation to your system at a time when your body is usually winding down for sleep. As much as you may love your friends and feel uplifted by getting together for fun times and creating memories, high stimulation can also lead to feeling exhausted.

Resting after this kind of socialising can often look like going to the other extreme: allowing extra time on the sofa, indulging in treats and exerting little energy. For some insomniacs, downtime can even extend to 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. So the nervous system may not have a chance to come into a place of rest.

This means you could frustratingly still miss out on the nourishing rest needed even after a day where you let yourself fully chill. It’s because there’s stimulation left in your system that gets in the way of drifting off into a Restful Sleep.

Why can you feel drained after socialising?

Even without the changes in routine and environment, 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 after being separated. The term stuck because 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, peaceful time.

Research into socialising and fatigue backs up the connection between stimulating social, or what is referred to as 'extraverted behaviour' and feeling drained. Participants reported being more tired 2–3 hours after behaving in an extroverted, highly stimulating, way compared to more introverted behaviour. The research indicated ways that energy is used as:

  • Regulating emotions when around others

'Self-presentational' concerns in social interactions are where people use energy to control their emotional expressions to belong in the group.

  • Giving attention and using short-term memory

Interacting with others demands attention and short-term memory, which can take effort.

  • More challenging interactions that require extra effort to navigate.

The number of people met in a situation may mediate the link between extraverted behaviour and later fatigue.

How to create social activities that are restful?

In a landmark study, The Rest Test, 68.4% of over 18,000 people from over 130 different countries said they would like more rest. When asked about their most restful activities, the top three that participants chose were reading, being in the natural environment and time alone.

From the rest of the top ten activities chosen, a trend to emerge was how restful activities were generally perceived as things to do alone. This shines a light on the cultural norms around the association of rest with solitude, whilst socialising is typically seen as being more high-energy.

But that doesn't mean socialising in a restful way isn't possible! Over here at Restful Sleep, we are all about getting creative in finding ways to do things with gentleness (less stimulation and more presence). So here are some ideas for restful activities to enjoy with friends and family. These come from explorations with sleep coaching clients as well as what I have found to work for myself. This is restful socialising!

  • Spa dates,

  • Hikes,

  • Chilled evenings at home,

  • Cooking together as a group,

  • Going to watch the sunset,

  • Doing creative projects together,

  • Working in the garden with friends,

  • Gathering watch and discuss a weekly episode of a tv series,

  • Taking a class together and cheering each other on afterwards.

You could start by inviting one or two people along to one of these activities and build up to add more people if that works for the activity and there is interest. 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 so drained. Then you can then choose to join the more stimulating social events when you have the extra energy for them, rather than them being the main way to experience connection.

How to work out your preferences for social stimulation

There’s some field work to do! Your experiment is to try out different types of restful socialising activities, whilst making a conscious effort to notice how you feel during and after them. You can experiment with different times of day and how it is with varying numbers of people participating. You could track this 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, trying out activities in different states. This helps with spotting differences in how it is to participate in an activity when you’re feeling energised vs. when you may be on one of those making-it-through kind of days. Giving more choices for how to enjoy some social connection, depending on your energy levels and what other commitments you may have in your week.

Other discoveries when you switch to restful socialising

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, you will also need to find out how open others may be to socialising in alternative ways.

You may find that some friends are only available for loud, late nights at the club. Or others might prefer to focus their energy on attending the big group meet-ups, rather than one-on-one or smaller groups. These kinds of discoveries could mean a shift in who you spend more time with. It's common to feel confused and/ or disappointed at this point and can be tempting to stick to the familiar ways of socialising for ease, even if they feel draining.

This is typically where sleep coaching clients need some extra support and encouragement to stick with it. As a coach, I help to keep things in perspective, reminding them how the experimentation is temporary, as well as connecting to their goals to help them stay on track. Because it is possible to enjoy life in a way that is both satisfying and restful. It just takes being open to trying out some new ways.

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 you can do at your own pace. That way you can find time to explore your lifestyle in terms of what fulfils you and what brings relaxation, to ultimately get Restful Sleep.

Stay curious,



About the author

Maša Nobilo, Sleep Coach

From first-hand insomniac to certified Embodied Facilitator with training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, the Feldenkrais Method and Embodied Yoga Principles, Maša is well-equipped to support you on journey to restful sleep.
Learn more below.

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