Heightened feelings of anxiety as the weekend winds down are more common than you may realize. A recent survey from career networking site LinkedIn revealed 80% of professionals (1) spend their Sunday evenings worrying about the week ahead.
Different factors can bring about stressful feelings on Sundays, such as upcoming workloads, to-do lists, and unfinished tasks from the previous week. Thankfully, there are measures you can take to improve your sleep hygiene, reduce anxiety as the weekend draws to a close, and wake up feeling well-rested on Monday morning.
What Causes Sunday Anxiety?
Sunday night anxiety is considered “anticipatory anxiety” (2). The anticipation of stress during the workweek can trigger the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, causing you to feel more anxious in the hours leading up to bedtime on Sunday evening.
Stories of Sunday anxiety date back up to 100 years (3). Some studies suggest a strong link between workplace stressors and sleep quality (4). Although psychologically detaching yourself from work can help you relax and unwind on Sunday night, this detachment can be difficult for people who face high levels of job-related stress.
For some individuals, poor sleep on Sunday nights may be tied to sleep reactivity (5). Sleep reactivity is the level at which stress impacts your ability to fall or remain asleep. People with high sleep reactivity are more likely to experience sleep problems due to stress. Studies have pinpointed certain factors that influence sleep reactivity (6), such as genetics and familial history of insomnia, environmental stress, and being female. Worries and ruminations related to stress can exacerbate the effects of sleep reactivity, leaving people even more vulnerable to sleep problems.
Researchers have also explored whether sleep and worry share a bidirectional relationship (7), meaning that sleep could influence worry at the same time as worry influences sleep. While worrying during the day can predict sleep disturbances that evening, there is less evidence that sleep patterns can be used to predict whether or not a person will worry the following day.
How Can You Sleep Better on Sunday Nights?
Following guidelines for healthy sleep hygiene (8) can help you get much-needed rest on Sunday evenings, even if you’re feeling anxious. These guidelines include:
- Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: While it’s often tempting to sleep in on the weekends, it is best to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. An irregular sleep routine makes it harder to fall asleep at your desired time.
- Exercise During the Day: Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days, but avoid strenuous physical activity in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
- Find a Relaxing Activity: Reading a book, listening to music, or taking a hot bath can all help you relax and prepare for bed on Sunday evenings.
- Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine: Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants with effects that can take hours to wear off. These effects can negatively impact your sleep schedule if consumed close to bedtime.
- Abstain from Drinking Before Bed: The idea that alcohol can help you sleep is a myth. Drinking can make you feel more tired and help you fall asleep, but you’re more likely to wake up during the night after the sedative effects of alcohol wear off.
- Restrict Your Sunday Naps: There’s nothing wrong with a refreshing weekend nap, but you should avoid napping in the late afternoon and evening because this can impact your sleep that night. Also make sure to time your naps to be half an hour or shorter.
- Spend Some Time in the Sun: Natural sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Aim for at least half an hour in natural sunlight every day.
If you follow these guidelines and continue to struggle with sleep on Sunday nights, a doctor may be able to help you explore other strategies.
Sometimes, the cause of poor sleep is medical. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Untreated sleep apnea prevents deep, restful sleep and increases the risk of other health problems. Snoring is a common sign of sleep apnea.
Along with diet and exercise, quality sleep is one of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene and still struggling with nighttime restlessness or daytime fatigue, it’s time to talk to a healthcare professional.
Chronic sleep problems may be a sign of an underlying health condition, and the sooner you get help, the sooner you can start enjoying quality rest.
If you think you have sleep apnea, contact Alaska Sleep Clinic for your free sleep assessment at any of our four sleep clinics in Alaska: Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna.