Have you ever noticed that you tend to feel more down at night?
You’re more apt to think about embarrassing moments and regrets, and to feel that certain areas (or all areas) of your life aren’t going well. A sense of general hopelessness sometimes creeps in.
There are biological reasons for this. Your circadian rhythm regulates your wakefulness/sleepiness, ramping up your cognitive activity and alertness during the day, and winding your brain down in preparation for sleep at night.
When you’re in this cognitive powering-down mode, your brain’s tuckered-out from the hubbub of the day and its executive function — its ability to regulate your mood and control impulses — is diminished; as one researcher put it, at night, “reason sleeps.”
Studies show that people tend to give in to more maladaptive behaviors after dark: During the evening hours, cravings for alcohol and unhealthy foods (heavy on the carbs, fat, and processing) rise; substance abuse increases; attention to negative stimuli is heightened and its salience — how large it looms in your mind — is amplified; and the rate of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts goes up.
Basically, when you’re still awake when your brain wants to sleep, all your little psychic demons come out to play, and you’re a lot more vulnerable to them.
That’s why doing what your brain would like and simply going to bed is one of the most effective and underrated solutions to life’s (seeming) problems.
Just go to sleep.
Battling an itch to ditch your diet or end your sober streak?
Just go to sleep.
Getting caught up in a fruitless argument with your spouse?
Forget the adage about never going to bed angry; just go to sleep.
Don’t stay up thinking that if you simply ruminate on your problems a little longer, you’ll figure them out. Things will look a heck of a lot better when you wake up the next day, and you’ll have far more energy and wherewithal to tackle them.
As the wise psalmist wrote thousands of years ago: “Joy cometh in the morning.”
Or as the modern sage Dr. Steve Brule put it: “Go to bed early, you doofus, because when you’re sleeping, there’s no lonely times, just dreams.”