Science confirms what we all knew, deep down: after a long, hard day at work, doing something fun and relaxing can help you sleep better at night.

Image via Pixabay.

Sometimes, something just feels right. Like when you have a bad day at work and then you have a beer with your friends, snuggle up with a cup of tea and a book, or watch that movie you’ve been planning to for days. Now, a new study found that it doesn’t just feel good — it is good for you (not the beer part though, just the disconnect-from-work part).

Essentially, detaching yourself from work can help you sleep better, which in turn helps you work better the next day, researchers write.

“Sleep quality is crucial because sleep plays a major role in how employees perform and behave at work,” said lead author Caitlin Demsky, PhD, of Oakland University.

“In our fast-paced, competitive professional world, it is more important than ever that workers are in the best condition to succeed, and getting a good night’s sleep is key to that.”

Demsky and her colleagues surveyed 699 employees of the U.S. Forest Service, asking them to rate their negative thoughts about work, how much rude behavior they experience in the workplace, and how much they are able to detach from work and relax. Participants were also asked about insomnia symptoms and other difficulties in sleeping.

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Researchers learned that experiencing rude or simply negative behavior was linked to more symptoms of insomnia. People who were being verbally abused tended to wake up several times during the night.

“Incivility in the workplace takes a toll on sleep quality,” said Demsky. “It does so in part by making people repeatedly think about their negative work experiences.”

“Those who can take mental breaks from this fare better and do not lose as much sleep as those who are less capable of letting go.”

However, doing fun and relaxing activities after work does a lot to offset that risk. Relaxing after work is obviously recommended for everyone, but it’s especially important for those who have it rough at work. Relaxing also helped clear out stress and repeated negative thoughts, which can promote several health complications, including cardiovascular diseases, increased blood pressure, and fatigue.

The authors make two suggestions: first, they say, managers should serve as role models. Too often, managers are combative, too authoritative, and even abusive. Demsky and colleagues also recommend that managers don’t send work-related messages outside of business hours, allowing the employees to disconnect.

Secondly, they suggest that workplaces employ programs to reduce workplace incivility, which seems to be a growing problem. This could make for healthier, happier, and more productive employees, researchers conclude.

The article “Workplace Incivility and Employee Sleep: The Role of Rumination and Recovery Experiences,” by Caitlin Demsky et al. has been published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology