Yes, You Can Beat the Sunday Night Blues!
Chances are you’ve heard of the “Sunday Night Blues” – heck, you’ve probably battled them! According to a recent study, this is a very real phenomenon, with almost 50% of adults reporting that they have trouble sleeping on Sunday nights on a regular basis.
But why are so many of us suffering from the Sunday Night Blues?
Why Can’t We Sleep on Sunday Nights?
It turns out that what could be causing us the loss of quality sleep on Sundays isn’t just the thought of heading back to work the next day – it’s actually caused by a phenomenon known as “social jet lag.”
When we stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights, we usually sleep in the following mornings. This shift in sleep patterns is basically shifting our natural body clocks, making us feel as if we’ve changed time zones by taking an international flight. Yikes!
By the time Sunday night rolls around, our bodies have become used to staying up later and then sleeping in the next morning, leaving us staring up at the ceiling and counting sheep the night before we’re due back in the office.
There’s also another factor to take into account when it comes to having trouble sleeping on Sunday nights – good old-fashioned stress is also to blame. And when it comes to feeling the crunch of Monday morning rolling around again, it’s not just those that are employed full-time that feel it. Homemakers and students reported similarly high anxiety levels and difficulty sleeping on Sunday nights.
In fact, more than 40% of Americans have stated that they struggle to get a good night’s rest on Sundays, and of that group, more than half reported that it took them more than 30 minutes to fall asleep on Sunday nights – much longer than it typically took them on other nights like Tuesday or Thursday.
Stress is the Enemy of Sleep
There have been multiple studies done on the link between anxiety and sleep deprivation, so none of this should come of a surprise, but that doesn’t mean that Sunday insomnia is any easier to deal with, no matter what your stress levels might be or what your plans are for Monday morning.
Not every bout of insomnia is caused by stress but those of us with a high level of anxiety (no matter what the cause) do tend to suffer from sleep deprivation more than those that are stress-free. All of that stress over work or personal concerns most definitely complicates your sleep schedule, making it hard to fall asleep and stay in Dream Land once you finally do arrive.
When you’re stressed to the max, your brain goes into a state of hyperarousal, which creates an upset in your natural sleep-wake cycle. But how do you know if your insomnia is truly related to any anxiety you might be feeling or if it’s something else that’s to blame?
Your first step is to ask yourself when your sleeplessness started and see if there is a link between the onset of your insomnia and any life events that have left you feeling worried and stressed. Then look at whether your trouble sleeping come and go with your anxiety or if it seems to stick around no matter what your emotional state might be during your days.
It might also be helpful if we took a moment to clarify what we mean by being stressed or anxious – ask yourself if you are frequently feeling anxious, irritated, or depressed when there’s no immediate cause. If you’re not feeling on your “A-game,” even though there has been nothing going on in your life to make you stressed, you might want to check in with your doctor and see if you might be struggling with a mood disorder, which will absolutely cause anxiety and insomnia, but which can also easily be addressed with talk therapy, medication, or even a combination of both.
Breakup with Your Stressful Feelings
If you’ve found that there is a link between your stress levels and the inability to get to sleep, there’s some good news on the horizon for you – beating your stress and getting great sleep is easier than you might think!
Follow these 3 easy steps to get on the path to better sleep tonight…
- Ease into better sleep habits – Schedule your bedtime and waking time in accordance with how many hours of sleep you’re already getting. For example, if you’re only getting 5 hours of sleep right now, stick with that in order to avoid pressuring yourself to get more sleep and creating more stress. After a couple of days, increase the amount of time you’ve set aside for sleep by 15 minutes, and continue that pattern until you’ve eased yourself into being in bed for the recommended 8 hours every night.
- Make pre-bedtime relaxation a priority – It might sound silly when we tell you that winding down should be an important part of your day that needs to be scheduled in, just like working hours or appointments. But you can’t expect your body to go from “up and at ‘em” to sleeping in a flash. You need to give it some time to get ready for bed. And your brain also needs to have time to wind down, giving it a chance to switch over from being alert and active to easing into your natural sleep system. At least 2 hours before bedtime, cut out all phone calls, chores, and other stimulating activities. Instead, spend some time reading, listening to music, or even give knitting or needlepoint a try.
- Set yourself up for sleep success – Your final step should be to create a positive connotation to bedtime and getting the sleep that you need to perform at your peak. Make the switch from thinking of bedtime as a drag and make it all about things that you enjoy. Try redecorating your bedroom in soothing colors and designs, keep the bedroom all about quality time with your partner and sleep by removing anything that’s not related to one or the other, and consider investing in better bedding and a top-rated mattress to help lull you to sleep faster and easier.
Maybe you’re freaking out about your morning commute, worried about being slammed at work, or you might have a ton of housework to handle before you have guests in from out of town. And there’s always the ever-popular phenomenon of not being able to sleep, simply because you’re so concerned about (you guessed it) not being able to sleep.
Whatever the reason for your anxiety, it’s definitely taking a toll on your ability to get the sleep that you need to be happy and healthy, so what can you do to battle the Sunday Night Blues, fight off insomnia, and wake up ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning?
How to Kick Sleepless Sundays to the Curb
According to sleep research, one of the best ways to cut down on Sunday night insomnia is by addressing any possible sources of anxiety directly, maintaining a regular sleep schedule throughout the entire week (instead of burning the midnight oil on the weekends), and reducing the amount of time that you spend in front of those damaging blue-light emitting devices (we’re looking at you smartphones and tablets!) on every night of the week, not just on the dreaded night before Monday dawns.
When the late nights of the weekend are giving you a serious case of social jet lag, follow some of these top sleep tips for better nights (and days), no matter where you are in the week…
Keep things cool, dark, and quiet
You’ll be able to fall asleep faster and stay that way longer if your bedroom is free of distractions, dark and quiet, and especially cool. Sleep experts have found that the ideal sleeping temperature is right around 65 degrees Fahrenheit – bonus points if you use a fan to create a cooling crosswind as you drift off to Dream Land!
Ditch the Stress
If your nerves are practically on-end with anxiety about the week to come, you should give some calming activities a try before turning in for the night, if you want to get the high-quality sleep that you need, that is! Pick up a notebook and write away your worries before heading to bed to keep your mind free of stressors or give some meditation a go with simple mindful breathing techniques and light yoga stretches.
Stick with a sleep schedule
We’re not trying to be downers here – we know that nobody wants to miss out on all the late-night fun that is waiting for you with open arms on Friday and Saturday nights. But if you want to minimize the damage that staying up late on the weekend does to the other days in your week, your best bet is to make heroic efforts to try and get to bed around the same time that you do on work nights.
If you find yourself just too tempted by the idea of burning the midnight oil on the weekend, make a promise to yourself that you’ll stay up late just one weekend night, instead of both, giving your body a fighting chance to re-adapt to your work week schedule.
Help your body and mind get ready for rest
When Sunday rolls around, do your best to start prepping yourself for a good night’s rest well before it’s time to crawl between the sheets that night. Try dimming the lights as soon as evening comes around to help your body’s natural clock find its rhythm without a hitch at bedtime. Cut out caffeine and alcohol at least 6 hours before turning in for the night, as both can be disruptive to your sleep cycle. And finally, help your body and mind to unwind by pampering yourself with a luxuriously relaxing activity after dinner, like taking a warm candle-lit bubble bath.
Get outdoors and get active
If you’ve spent your entire weekend indoors (Netflix marathoners, we’re looking at you!) and now you’re dreading going to work on Monday, it makes sense that you’ll find yourself too stressed to sleep when Sunday night rolls around. Try combatting the Sunday Night Blues by squeezing in some time in the Great Outdoors during the weekend. Studies have shown that both sunshine and physical activity help to combat work-related stress and help you get to sleep faster. Bonus!
Calculate your ideal bedtime
While keeping in mind that experts have shown that we all need at least 7 hours of sleep each night in order to be at our best the next day, you can calculate the best time for you to go to bed by working out how much time you will need to get ready to leave the house in the morning, then count backwards using 90-minute blocks of time. Discovering your ideal bedtime will help you to create boundaries that will allow you to put a Sunday night routine in place that will enable you to get enough sleep, feel less stressed, and have you feeling focused and ready for your Monday.
Don’t forget to have fun!
Just because you have to go to work the next day doesn’t mean that Sunday nights have to be a total drag. Create a fun tradition of making Sundays a pizza and movie night with your family, video chatting with friends from around the world, or planning a day of beauty and pampering by painting your nails or giving yourself a facial. If Sundays are more about fun, they’ll be less about dreading the coming work week and worrying about getting the good sleep you need that night. Sweet, right?