When I do wellness presentations for a variety of different audiences, one topic that always sparks a great deal of interest is "Sunday Night Insomnia." If you are like the attendees at my lectures, chances are you've never heard of this phenomena. Yet it is quite likely that you have experienced it, or even experience this regularly—so what is it?
The symptoms of this condition include, as the name implies, the inability to sleep or general restfulness on Sunday nights around bedtime. A handful of causes can lead to it, but for the general population and athletes alike, the primary cause usually remains the same—late nights on the weekend.
The human body can best switch into "sleep mode" when it does so around the same time night after night. But on the weekends, usually due to socializing, studying, video games, etc., our sleep pattern becomes altered. By staying up later than usual on Friday night, and subsequently sleeping in later on Saturday, we set ourselves up to repeat the same later-than-usual sleep pattern on Saturday night, which unfortunately leads to restlessness on Sunday nights when we try to return to our normal bed time.
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This may not seem like a big deal, but starting the week off without being fully rested can reduce the body's ability to fight infection, be productive at school or work, and for the athlete—reduce his or her response to training stimuli.
Avoiding Sunday Night Insomnia usually requires some type of lifestyle intervention. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to fix the behavior. The optimal way is to set a bedtime and strive to keep it the same throughout the entire week, including weekends. When you do that, your body can transition into deeper sleep much faster, leading to better progress in the gym or on the field.
Another way is to ensure that you wake up earlier on Sunday, even if it means cutting into your full night of sleep. This solution is less optimal, but it's an option for those without a rigorous Sunday schedule. By cutting into your sleep on Sunday morning with the help of an alarm clock set at or slightly after your normal wake-up time, you'll again be ready for a full and restful night of sleep come Sunday evening, leaving you prepared to take on practice, school or work and keeping you on track to achieve your goals.
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