Imagine you come back from work tired and exhausted. 

Even before getting home, you’ve dreamed of the cozy feeling that your soft bed will finally give you when you lie on it. 

In fact, you might be so tired that you feel once you lie on it, you might just end up sleeping for three days on end.

But to your greatest dismay, you wake up three hours after sleep looking at the ceiling. 

This scenario is one we are all too familiar with. 

Sometimes we just find ourselves in the middle of the night unable to fall asleep even when we need it badly. And often, out of desperation and frustration, we…

  • Try to force ourselves to sleep
  • Take alcohol
  • Go on social media
  • Play video games

However, stimulants or gadgets will only worsen the situation. Forcing yourself to sleep doesn’t work either. What works? Get your mind off sleep. Here are some great ways to spend your time when you find yourself bored at night.

1. Listen to Your Favourite Playlist

In October 2020, Andrew Budson, MD published a remarkable article in Harvard Health concerning the connection between music and the brain. 

He explained that playing background music has a strong effect on our moods. In his words, “Music can lift your mood,” he wrote, “so put on a happy tune if you are feeling blue.”

Also in 2020, a group of researchers did a health survey on the impact of music on the brain. They also discovered that…

“Music listeners had higher scores for mental well-being and slightly reduced levels of anxiety and depression compared to people overall…Active musical engagement, including those over age 50, was associated with higher rates of happiness and good cognitive function.”

Apart from the nostalgic effect music can have on us, it also helps us relax. 

Music represents order. 

The melodious arrangement of the notes and the rhythm also helps create rhythm and order in our minds as well. 

Our emotional connection to sounds makes it have the ability to take us back in time or change our states. So when you’re bored at night, use music to lift your soul. 

2. Writing/Journaling

Putting down your thoughts on paper clarifies your mind. 

A group of researchers in the department of behavioral science at the Pennsylvania state university researched the effect of journaling in 2018.

Interestingly, and as expected, they found that journaling led to decreased mental stress and an overall increase in the general wellbeing and mental health of the participants. 

Writing down your thoughts on paper has an emotion-regulatory effect on us. 

As such, if you are up at night, instead of trying hard to silence the voices in your head, try clarifying them on paper. 

Like Anne Frank, one of the most discussed victims of the holocaust  would later say in her famous publication, The Diary of a Young Girl, 

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

3. Engage Your Mind With A Book

Nights are usually very quiet, and as such, it is a great time to engage with ideas deeply. 

This is especially great if you don’t have time to read during the day because of your tight schedule.

In a 2009 study, a group of researchers found that along with humor and yoga, reading was also discovered as a great strategy to manage stress among students.

Why? Because great books engage our minds. 

Reading a good novel for instance takes you to another world. You can forget yourself in the characters and sometimes even feel their emotions. 

If you can’t sleep, cracking a hard copy book open will take your mind off the need to sleep, and your sleep might just be restored because of your quiet and deep focus. 

4. Take A Bath

The American novelist and short-story writer Sylvia Plath was depressed for most of her adult life. 

In her only novel, The Bell Jar, she wrote, “I’m sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath, but I can’t think of one.”

Interestingly, Plath wasn’t the only one who recognized the remarkable ability of a warm bath to work wonders in our mental state. 

In a small 2018 study, researchers observed that warm baths were twice as effective as exercising in lifting the moods of people with depression

Why? Among other reasons, the major one: It helps them sleep better by balancing serotonin levels and decreasing stress hormones.

5. Meditation 

Meditating at night when you can’t sleep is a great way to calm your nerves and organize your thoughts. 

The thing is, most times we are unable to fall asleep because of certain uncontrollable thoughts. The more we try to suppress them, the more they surface. 

But when you meditate, you organize the contents of your mind. The fact that meditation is both mentally, emotionally, and neurologically beneficial to us is no news. 

Consider it an act of self clarification. Learn to go inward, instead of seeking stimulants. Like the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius would later note in his Meditations, 

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”

Final Thoughts

Not being able to sleep at night after a rough day can be frustrating. It put’s us in a desperate position. And as it usually happens when we are desperate, basic instincts kick in and we attempt to do whatever it takes like turning to our phones or taking alcohol to ward off boredom. 

But like most of the actions inspired by our basic instincts, this one too only has immediate gratification, but creates more problems in the long term. What we can do is find activities that can help us relax or at worst, not worsen our mental health. To recap:

1. Listen to your favorite playlist

2. Writing/Journaling

3. Engage your mind with a book

4. Take a bath

5. Meditation

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