Stop us if this sounds familiar: You’re early to bed and early to rise on work days. But when the weekend rolls around, you’re out until two A.M. (or later) and still in bed hours after your usual wake time.
That’s bad news, because your internal circadian clocks thrive on routine, says Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
When you shift your sleep-wake times by three or four hours every weekend, your body ends up feeling like you hopped a transatlantic flight, Grandner says. The hormones that regulate your mood and sleep and appetite are thrown out of whack, which explains why you’re bummed out and unable to sleep Sunday nights, and you walk into work Monday morning feeling more drained than rejuvenated. “It’s hard to focus and have energy and feel good when you’re throwing your body curveballs every weekend,” he says.
One of the best ways to avoid all this is to iron out the wrinkles in your sleep schedule. While you’re probably not willing to forgo your weekends out on the town, getting an earlier start—think happy hours and dinner with buddies, rather than meeting up at 10 to pregame—is a good way to stick closer to your workday sleep routines. Even if you only do this one weekend a month, you’ll string together nearly two weeks of consistent sleep, which is a great way to feel your best.
Another option: however late you stay out, try to get up within an hour of your usual wake time. “A day or two of sleep loss isn’t a big deal when you’re young, and you can take a nap during the day to cut down on fatigue,” Grandner says. You’ll find getting to sleep Sunday night is a breeze, and you’ll roll into work Monday feeling a lot less discombobulated.
What else can you do to make your weekends more refreshing? Keep reading.
SPEND TIME IN NATURE
The more experts study the mental health benefits of nature, the more they link time spent in the Great Outdoors to lower rates of stress, anxiety, and depression. Especially if you live in a city or suburb, a few hours spent in the company of trees and water—think forest trails or congestion-free waterways—the more your mood and energy levels soar. One recent study from Stanford found time spent in nature calmed activity in brain regions linked to mental illness.
TAKE A BREAK FROM YOUR SMARTPHONE
More and more research is tying heavy social media use to increased rates of depression and anxiety. A recent Pew Research Center survey suggests keeping tabs on everything your friends and family members are up to can be draining. Depending on how much you use your device, setting it aside for even 20 minutes may be a challenge. But try. Leave your phone at home and go for a long walk. Or turn off all alerts and notifications, and spend some time cooking and enjoying a meal without distraction. You’ll notice a change.
DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
Streaming movies and playing video games may be fun. So yeah, go ahead and devote half your weekend to those activities. But if you can carve out some time to pursue a creative hobby—writing music, wood working, brewing your own beer, etc.—those hours will pay dividends. Doing something creative boosts mental “recovery” and relaxation, shows research from San Francisco State University. It also gives your life meaning, which a lot of research has linked to contentment and happiness.
Don’t roll your eyes. If you’ve only ever volunteered when a school or work group required it, the obligatory nature of that experience probably blinded you to how good it feels to donate your time to others. A pile of research shows volunteering improves your health and well-being in multiple ways, from helping you sleep to extending your life. Think about it this way: When you do something selfish or shameful, you feel bad. It stands to reason that when you do something altruistic, you’re going to feel good afterward.