Despite the stereotypical depiction of lazy summer days and summer as a time of relaxation, many factors contribute to insufficient sleep during summer. Because the days are longer and the sun is out well into the evening, the body’s circadian rhythm may be thrown off, causing difficulty in getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. With the ideal sleeping temperature sitting somewhere around 68 degrees, summer heat can cause insomnia related to poorly regulated body temperature. Also, if you are a parent of school-age children or in school yourself, the summer change in routine may throw off your sleep schedule.
You can overcome many summer sleep obstacles with a few small changes. Here are seven solid tips on how to sleep better this summer.
- Use the Air Conditioning. If you live somewhere where temperatures remain 70 degrees or above during the summer months, set the thermostat for somewhere between 60 and 68 degrees. It may run up the energy bill, but the sleep you’ll save is worth the money. You can also trigger temperature shifts necessary for good sleep by taking a warm bath or shower before bed—they temporarily raise your body temperature, which gradually lowers in the cooler air of your bedroom, signaling your body to feel sleepy. Choosing cooling pillows, cotton sheets, and mattresses made with cooling gels also helps keep your body at the ideal temperature for sleep.
- Stick to Your Sleep Schedule. If you are the parent of a school-age child or in school yourself, the summer break can throw off your routine. If you want to keep sleeping well, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day works wonders. An essential part of good sleep hygiene, sticking to your sleep schedule is so important that even sleeping in on weekends throws off your circadian rhythm.
- Get Some Exercise—at the Right Time of Day. Common wisdom dictates that getting regular exercise helps you sleep better, tiring out your body and relieving anxiety. Exercise also releases stimulating endorphins that cause difficulty initiating sleep—so leave at least three hours to wind down before bedtime.
- Eat and Drink Early. Since it stays light out longer during the summer, it can feel natural to push dinnertime later as well. Eating later makes it harder to go to sleep, as does consuming alcohol. Try to keep your dinnertime—and the wine you might enjoy with your food—earlier in the evening, so that you finish at least three hours before bedtime.
- Keep Away from Screens. Summer may seem like the perfect time to catch up on all the shows you missed during busier parts of the year, but you shouldn’t bring your Netflix binges into the bedroom. According to the Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, exposure to the light from TVs and other electronic devices in the bedroom lowers the natural melatonin levels needed for a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid Evening Caffeine. Nobody wants to ditch their morning coffee. However, keeping your caffeine intake limited to the morning and early afternoon helps your sleep. Consuming caffeine as close to bedtime as six hours may reduce your sleep by up to an hour. Cut out the caffeine by 2pm and you’ll get to sleep easier, and be more likely to sleep through the night.
- Stay in the Dark. Nighttime exposure to sunlight tricks your body into thinking you should still be up and active. Close the blinds or curtains to darken your bedroom and make it more conducive to sleep.
By following good sleep hygiene with a few seasonal adjustments, you can beat the heat and rest easy this summer. Getting good summer sleep is no sweat.