Wellness & Fitness

How do I stop thinking about work at 1am?


Loss of sleep in the middle of the night can be due to different reasons. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

How do I stop thinking about work at 1am? I’m stressed because it's affecting my sleep.

You tell us that you think about work at 1 am. Are you inferring that you can fall asleep when you get to bed at 10 pm and suddenly wake up at 1 am in a state of anxiety and fear about work?

Loss of sleep in the middle of the night can be due to different reasons.

Some people lose sleep because the alcohol they had taken to induce sleep is running out of the system while others with a diagnosis of, say, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will wake up in a fit of fear and anxiety as they recall in a dream, a near-death experience at work.

Others might wake up thinking about the workplace and the problems they are going through at home. Frequent fighting with the spouse might be the problem.

During the day the person is absent-minded and might have received the third and final letter of warning.

As you can see all these people are like you and might tell the doctor the same story about thinking about work at 1am but each would have arrived at this problem from a different perspective.

In one case the “cure” would come from dealing with the alcohol problem, the other from dealing with PTSD while the other solution would be solving the marital problem.

To make this point rather dramatically, we will look at a rather unusual presentation of a sleep problem.

Some months back, we saw a 50-year-old banker whose problem was similar to yours. He woke up in the middle of the night and thought about his workplace for hours.

His employer was worried mainly because for the 20 years he had worked for the bank, he had, each year earned merit points for his exemplary performance.

Two things struck the clinical team. The first was his car. It was about 10 years old by registration, but it was as clean and shiny as it would have been when first bought.

It turned out that he cleaned it himself every day, and that once a week he took it for a thorough clean and polish and it did not have a single scratch.

The next was his attire. He was very smartly dressed, matching his suit, shirt, tie, shoes, and socks.

Upon further inquiry, it became clear that part of what made him such a good banker had turned out to be the problem he now suffered from.

He had traits of OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder), described in lay terms as a perfectionist.

Everything in his life had to exist in a particular way. Any disruption of his routine caused much distress.

When his wife left for the US to be with their daughter who was due to have a baby, his world had turned upside down.

The orderly life he and his wife had led all their lives was threatened by the happy event of becoming grandparents.

At first, it was small things. Missed appointments with a customer, allegations of rudeness, and shouted at a junior colleague, all these being out of his character.

The more he lost sleep the worse things became at work and the more he thought about work at night.

During the initial evaluation and later in therapy, it became evident that this banker had chosen the perfect career for his personality and that his wife was the pillar that had held him together all his working life.

She ensured that both he and their home ran like clockwork. In her absence, he had, in a social sense and certainly regarding work, disintegrated, loss of sleep, being the most visible of several other symptoms.

He understood and accepted this explanation and was true to all expectations, he followed the therapy sessions and kept all appointments on time and by the time his wife came back a few months later, life resumed its normalcy and he slept well again and performance at work came back to normal.

Send your mental health concerns to [email protected]