Nearly two-thirds reported a restless night’s sleep Sunday night, which they attributed to job-related anxiety.
And it’s not just because people hate their jobs: Even people who said they love their work reported anxiety over job expectations and workload.
Fretting over something can trigger our flight-or-fight reflex, which floods the body with adrenaline. Pulse rate and blood pressure rise. Breathing becomes rapid, and the extra oxygen in the brain increases alertness. Blood sugars and other nutrients flood the bloodstream, supplying a boost of energy.
If the brain continues to think the danger is there (cue work worries) the body keeps systems on high, triggering the release of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. A continuous flood of cortisol keeps us revved up and on high alert.
You want to counter that stress by doing things that boost endorphins — the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood boosters.
Take a nature pill
Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. Why not boost that effect by enjoying nature?
Some folks turn to alcohol, even binging, to cope with the Sunday night blues. That’s a poor choice: Alcohol rattles your normal sleep patterns, trapping you in lighter stages of sleep and dramatically reducing the quality of your rest at night.
If you do imbibe, try to keep Sunday alcohol-free. If that fails, be sure to stop drinking long before bedtime.
This is going to sound impossible, even sacrilegious, but try to avoid your cell phone and work email on Sunday. Being constantly connected keeps us amped up even on our days off, discouraging relaxation.
Even better: Make your bedroom a technology-free zone — keep your electronics outside the room (that includes a TV!).”
And charge your phone outside the bedroom. The chimes of late night texts, emails, calls, or calendar reminders can disturb your deep sleep when if you don’t know it.
So you’ve turned off the chimes? Doesn’t matter. The blue light emitted by electronic screens interrupts the melatonin production, a hormone responsible for our sleep/wake cycles, also called circadian rhythm.
Journal your worries
Unconsciously worrying about all the things you have to do Monday primes you for restless sleep, even insomnia.
Use a technique long favored by stress management consultants: Write down a list of all the things you have to do Monday — or even the entire week. You can go so far as prioritizing them if you like. Not only will putting the tasks on paper jump-start your Monday morning, you’ll feel like you’ve purged your worries.
Go further if you like, and write about other things in your life that worry you — or just write down what you’re grateful for. Studies show that’s a great way to learn optimism and create a more positive outlook on life.
Practice good sleep hygiene
The good news is that you can train your brain to seek better sleep just as you train it to learn and accomplish other skills.
One of the first tasks is to set up your sleep environment and establish a relaxing bedtime routine. It’s that repetition that will train your brain to recognize that its time to relax and sleep.
Start with the bedroom. Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom; you want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.
Be sure to eliminate all bright lights, as even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. If that’s hard to accomplish, think about using eye shades and blackout curtains to keep the room dark.
Try to eliminate disturbing sounds as well. Earplugs or white noise machines can be very helpful, but you can create your own with a humidifier or fan.
And try to spend at least an hour before bed doing something relaxing such as yoga, meditation, a warm soak in the tub, or reading a good book.
But maybe not a murder mystery.