Far from a bad dream, Sunday night insomnia is real. Despite the tiredness after a busy weekend, many of us find it hard to drift off when Sunday night falls. Cue tossing and turning, overheating and panicking that your Monday morning commute is just a few hours away.
A recent study by Monster found 62% of people surveyed across the world admitted to feeling “really bad” Sunday night blues. Sleep expert, Dr Raj Dasgupta, who is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Southern California, confirmed it’s a well-known and common issue. He explains, “difficulty falling asleep on Sundays is nothing new.”
Although there’s no official name for the condition (other than the well-known Sunday Blues), it’s believed to be mainly caused by something called social jet lag. Your body’s circadian rhythm, known more simply as your internal clock, is effected by late nights and lie ins. Certified sleep specialist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Michael Breus, PhD, states that going to bed late and sleeping in two days in a row triggers “Sunday night insomnia”. If Friday and Saturday nights are also spent out late and drinking alcohol, this will make matters worse. Indeed, alcohol disrupts sleep and can cause you to wake up more frequently during the night.
Alcohol also suppresses the body’s release of the anti-diuretic hormone ADH, which makes you need to go to the toilet more often (hence a disrupted night). It means you’ll wake up even later too because your body is nowhere near as refreshed as it should be.
Stress, which can be spurred on by the thought of Monday morning being just around the corner, also comes into it. “Whether you’re a student worrying about tests, a parent taking care of your kids, or working at a 9-to-5, stress is a factor for pretty much anyone,” Dr Dasgupta explains. Be it physically, mentally or emotionally, when your body is stressed, the hormone cortisol is released; cortisol sends your mind into overdrive and, as a result, interrupts your sleep. So if you’re a Sunday insomniac fighting off those end-of-the-weekend blues, you know you’re not alone.
So how can you begin to beat the Sunday night blues and get some better shut-eye?
Try your hardest to stick to a sleep schedule; if possible, limit your lie-in to just 30 minutes. It might seem impossible at times but keeping your weekend sleep pattern as close to your weekday one will help when it comes to nodding off on Sunday night. It’s the same for going to bed too early and napping – Michael Breus confirms this will only make things worse.
After waking up, aim to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight, which will help your body’s circadian rhythm stay on track. Things to avoid? Caffeine and alcohol. Although drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep at first, it lowers the quality of sleep overall according to Dasgupta. For a good night’s kip, it’s best to avoid.
It’s also advisable to put your phone away. As hard as that sounds, devices like smartphones emit a blue light, which is the worst kind when it comes to suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin. Instead, why not stick on some comedy shows? Research suggests that watching a funny programme is three times more effective at reducing anxiety than simply sitting and resting.
If you do feel stressed, combat it by making a plan. Take a look at your week ahead and see if there’s anything you can try or do to make life easier. For instance, getting some exercise might not be a bad idea. It may be last thing you feel like doing when you’re time poor, but moving your body in the morning will help you drift off in the evening. Reward yourself with ‘you time’ where you can relax and unwind.
Sleep well, live well.