This is why you probably find it more difficult to fall asleep on a Sunday

·6-min read
Photo: Twinsfisch/Unsplash
Photo: Twinsfisch/Unsplash

Sunday night insomnia is a real thing. Here's what you need to know about it and what you can do to break the pattern.

So you’ve had a great weekend – you’ve unwound after a long week at work, caught up on your sleep, spent time with the family, did your workout routine and hit the bed at 10 pm as you’d promised yourself. But there you are -- staring at the ceiling with no signs of falling asleep. You wake up on Monday morning feeling like you’ve had the worst weekend ever because you haven’t been able to sleep the previous night. Welcome to the world of a Sunday insomniac.

For starters, know that you aren’t alone. Sunday insomnia is a real thing that affects hundreds and thousands of people across the globe. Being unable to fall asleep on a Sunday night can be caused by a number of reasons, the chief among them being anxiety.

Why do you have trouble sleeping on a Sunday night?

As you approach the end of the weekend, your thoughts naturally jump to the week ahead. It could be the weekly review that happens in several companies on a Monday or simply the horrible feeling of getting back to a job you probably don’t enjoy so much. Sometimes, even if you do love your job, you cannot shake off the feeling of anxiety of the coming week. And that anxiety is one of the reasons why you have trouble sleeping on a Sunday night.

To add to the regular anxiety, the subconscious pressure to fall sleep only makes matters worse. It’s a bit like performance anxiety – an athlete not performing in a crucial match because s/he has overthought the game or you being unable to perform in bed because you’ve overthought the moment.

There’s also the matter of weekend sleep patterns. Sunday tends to be the one day when most of your chores are done, you’ve had a hearty meal and you’ve nodded off in the afternoon. That hour or two-hour siesta could’ve well eaten into your night’s sleep, also causing you to stay awake.

You also may be in a physically demanding job, which means your physical activity goes down over the weekend. This too can affect your ability to fall asleep.

How can I fall asleep on a Sunday night?

If you’ve been reading carefully so far, chances are you’ve already figured out how to fall asleep on a Sunday night. But let us spell it out for you anyway, shall we?

Try not punishing yourself through the week

More often than not, we cut on our sleep through the week – sometimes because there’s a presentation on which you need to work, your kid’s homework is pending, the reasons are endless – in the hope that we’ll ‘catch up’ on our sleep over the weekend. So what happens on a Saturday or Sunday is that you’re paying off what some call a ‘sleep debt’. You tend to wake up later in the day and because you’ve started out late, the rest of your day also goes for a toss. You sleep late on Saturday – also because you may have had friends over or have gone out for a party – and that causes you to wake up later on the Sunday, when the pattern is repeated. Which is why you need to…

Try sticking to your usual sleeping patters as much as possible.

Genetically, we are wired to synchronise our sleep pattern to the cycle of darkness and light and our bodies tend to respond the best to regular patterns. So instead of paying off your ‘sleep debt’ over the course of the weekend, consider getting a good night’s sleep throughout the week. And, try sticking to that pattern, as much as possible, over the weekend too.

Avoid afternoon naps

We get the temptation. Really, we do. You’ve had a heavy lunch and you don’t have much to do. So, inevitably, you drift into a happy slumber. Except, as you’d discover in the hours to follow that the hour-long nap has cost you your night’s sleep. So, avoid taking prolonged naps. In any case, if you’ve napped for more than two hours, chances are that you’re suffering from some kind of sleep disorder so you may want to get that checked out, experts say.

Listen to your body

It’s easy to recommend that you set a bedtime and stick to it. Sure, it sounds like a reasonable thing to do but how often have we really stuck to our bedtime – whether as kids or as adults. The more realistic thing to do is to listen to your body and fall asleep when you’re feeling sleepy. Feeling sleepy is very different from feeling exhausted; you could be exhausted and still not sleepy. So, even though it may help to exhaust yourself, that may not help you to fall asleep. And since it’s a lot easier to control your wake-up time, you may want to consider starting there. Set an alarm, even if it is a Sunday, and begin your day as you would any other. This will help your body get into a familiar pattern and hopefully help you fall asleep at night.

Try maintaining the same level of physical activity

For those of us who keep a physically demanding job, it may help to maintain that level of physical activity to ensure that your body is getting as much exercise and you’re tired enough when you hit the bed. Doing this will also help your body maintain the pattern it is used to for the rest of the week.

Watch your alcohol consumption

Terabytes of data has been spent on the ill-effects of alcohol on your body. Acknowledge the fact that you’re not in your 20s anymore and that you cannot hold your alcohol as you used to. But we acknowledge that wining and dining over the weekend may well be part of your job so while you may not be able to give it up completely, consider limiting the portions. Have one drink instead of three, or, a bottle! Drinking just hours before you bedtime may not be the best way to help you fall asleep because while alcohol tends to enhance the adenosine levels that make you feel sleepy, it also tends to get metabolised quickly and as the levels fall, so does your desire to sleep.

Consider sleep music and meditation apps

Your mobile phone has a lot of apps that can help you fall asleep. Consider using one of them or tune into one of the many sleep music playlists. It is likely you still don’t fall asleep. In which case it may be a sign that you are dealing with something beyond just Sunday insomnia. It could be that you’re stressed, or that your anxiety isn’t just a once-a-week phenomenon. In which case, it may be a good idea to seek professional help.