The Tune May Change, But The Sunday Night Blues Play On

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Sighing, fretting, tossing, turning. No, you’re not a new mom trying to sneak in a few hours of sleep before the baby wakes up again. You’re not nervous about proving yourself on another Monday on your first job out of college. But the beat sounds familiar. You’ve had this struggle before. Throughout adulthood, “Mad Men” and “The Affair” airing on Sunday nights may have helped distract you. But it sneaks in, decade after decade: The Sunday Night Blues.

It just really sucks once your kids are older and you physically, logistically, technically, actually could sleep through the night.

76% of Americans report having “really bad” Sunday night blues—generally defined as depression over the fact that one night’s sleep stands between you and a new work week, according to a Monster poll. But it doesn’t have to be work worries fueling the infuriating experience. It can be anything, and everything.

At a time when midlife hits us (shockingly) hard, these Sunday Night Blues may almost be a welcome reminder and familiar feeling – something we had in our youthful twenties! We had concerns keeping us up back then, just different ones. Who doesn’t remember climbing into bed on a Sunday night after a great weekend, worrying about Monday morning work responsibilities, not knowing exactly what the next day would bring? Whether it was about remembering to get an all-important fax out or giving a writing “assignment” our best shot, uncertainty ruled the day. It was early in our careers, and we wanted to impress our bosses and get promoted. No matter how carefree our weekend had been (and it must have been carefree, right? I mean, what did we actually have to do on a Saturday back then?) Sunday night sleep did not necessarily come easy.

Then our 30s hit, and sleep was never so desired, yet so elusive. Getting up with baby number one, then baby number two; getting lively toddlers to bed; picking up Legos littered across the playroom floor at midnight (to make life easier to face in the morning). Every night, sleep sucked, but Sunday nights still remained the worst, for me, anyway – even if my tossing and turning had nothing to do with my job. Even when I was on maternity leave, working full-time, in a job share, or working freelance. Never mind all the personal and parenting stuff running through my mind – child care arrangements and back-up plans replayed well into the wee hours of Monday morning to get me to the place where I could even have a week that ran smoothly. Throughout my 30s, I had no idea what any Monday would bring.

Now, at 48, I feel like I know exactly what every Monday will bring – yet Sunday night sleep remains elusive. Don’t we deserve to say goodbye to the Sunday Night Blues in our 40s? Our kids are older and sleeping just fine. Actually, some could sleep until noon in the summer….

The Sunday Night Blues play on, at least for me. Now I know what will happen on Mondays; that’s not the problem. The knowing doesn’t solve anything.

But it’s not just about mom stuff. Sunday nights, we face our fears as women. It’s a physical and mental restlessness – a growing sense of worry beyond the to-do lists. Maybe those lists aren’t even running through our minds on repeat anymore, because we have them on our phones and that is enough. Even if our kid wakes up with a bad cold on Monday morning, we can probably make that important work meeting. In our 40s, at least we know this: we can get stuff done, and stuff will get done (and if it doesn’t, life will go on).

The Sunday Night Blues have changed their tune, but they’re still on full blast. A few things help.

“Mad Men” fans will remember when it ran on AMC every Sunday night. When the series ended, I mourned the loss of my favorite characters – and my main Sunday night distraction.

Experts say we have some power to weaken the worries, alleviate the guilt of what didn’t get done, and soften the sadness. I will try some of these things, but if Don Draper from Mad Men could actually reappear on Sunday nights and come tuck me in, that would be the best solution for my Sunday Night Blues.


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