Seven tips to conquer the Sunday Scaries
1. Stick to a sleep schedule. If you start to tackle the Sunday Scaries on Sunday, you're doing it wrong. We know, you haven't had a "bedtime" since middle school, but the best thing to do, according to Breus and Dasgupta, is to go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time on Saturday and Sunday as you do during the week (give or take 30 minutes). And open up your shades: to help your body's circadian rhythm stay on track, it's key to get about 15 minutes of sunlight immediately after you wake up. Also, try to avoid napping on the weekend or going to bed super early on Sunday nights, Breus says, which can cause other problems.
2. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Sorry, but Sunday Funday is not the solution. Sure, drinking may help you fall asleep at first, Dasgupta says, but it lowers the quality of sleep overall for the reasons mentioned above. Plus, we guarantee you're not going to wake up on Monday morning glad you downed a six-pack the night before. As for coffee? Try to avoid caffeine past 2pm, Breus says. Even better if you can skip it completely.
3. Put the phone away. Try to avoid exposure to light of any kind before bed, Dasgupta suggests. The worst kind is the blue light emitted from electronic devices like iPhones and iPads, because it suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. Leave the iPhone outside your bedroom if possible -- Instagram will still be there in the morning, we promise.
4. Get some exercise. We know the last thing you feel like doing on a Sunday morning is working out, but just try to move your body, ideally in the early AM, Dasgupta says. This will help you fall asleep more easily at night. And you don't have to go insanely hard at the gym -- research shows that even moderate aerobic exercise (i.e., walking) is even better than lifting weights at improving quality of sleep.
5. Plan for a positive week ahead. Take a look at your week ahead and see if there's anything you can do to make your life easier, Dasgupta suggests. Also make sure to set aside time for something fun, like a workout class you've wanted to try or dinner with a friend. Another way to help get your mind right: write down a few things you're grateful for, Breus says. This helps you focus on what's good in your life, rather than what's stressing you out.
If there's an issue that's really bothering you, tell yourself you'll think about it at some point that week -- not lying in bed at midnight. Dasgupta tells patients to set aside a dedicated "worry time" during the week when they can write down what's on their mind, think about what problems they can control (and what they can't), and come up with a plan. The key? "Do this out of the bed, not in the bed."
6. Watch a mindless TV show. Think The Office or 30 Rock -- not The Walking Dead or, God forbid, news about the election. Despite common advice, it's OK to leave the TV on if it helps you fall asleep. "I have no problem with people 'listening' to TV as they fall asleep," Breus says. "When they are not looking at the screen, but rather have their eyes closed and are listening to something, it can distract from issues that may be bothering them." In fact, research suggests that watching a funny show, like Friends, is three times more effective at reducing anxiety than simply sitting and resting. Bring on the Netflix.
7. If all else fails, get up and do something else. But keep it low-key. Try folding laundry or reading a work report (but not on your phone!) if you really cannot fall asleep after 15 or 20 minutes. Remember: your bed should be dedicated to sleep -- and sleep alone, Dasgupta says. And whatever you do, don't watch the clock, he says, which will just make you more anxious.