Summer is a much-awaited season filled with long sunny days, outdoor gatherings, and warm temperatures. But for many, it also signals a season of insomnia.
Michael Breus, PhD, board-certified sleep specialist and founder of TheSleepDoctor.com, believes there are specific aspects about summer that can lead to low-quality sleep.
“It’s all about the heat and being outside,” he says. “Many people have difficulty sleeping at night due to how hot it gets in their part of the world.”
Breus adds that summer travel can also lead to jet lag that can throw off your sleep schedule. Plus, with the increase in daylight hours, people are less likely to pay attention to the time, choosing instead to “party past their bedtimes,” he says.
The thing is, you can enjoy everything summer has to offer without sacrificing your sleep. Here are problems that frequently cause difficulty sleeping in summer and how to address them.
The National Sleep Foundation notes that the best temperature for sleep falls between 60° and 67° Fahrenheit. But if you don’t have air conditioning or if your bedroom tends to run hot during the summer, you likely won’t hit that temperature sweet spot.
Breus explains it like this: Your body needs to cool down while you sleep so the pineal gland in your brain can effectively release melatonin. If you’re too warm, your core body temperature won’t come down. A warm room can also bring about sweating and damp sheets, which add to the discomfort.
The solution: To feel cool while you snooze in the summer, Breus shares this hack: “Keep your feet out from under the covers and you will feel much cooler,” he says. “You’ll dissipate heat faster from your feet because there’s no hair on the bottom of your feet.” (Learn about the benefits of sleeping with a fan to stay cool all summer long.)
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Increase in daylight hours
An increase in daylight hours is a good thing, says Breus, because it allows you to receive an adequate amount of vitamin D through the skin, which can lead to improved mood among other health benefits. But, all that extra daylight this time of year can throw your circadian rhythm out of whack, leading to poor sleep and summer insomnia.
“We need to be careful, as several issues can occur,” Breus says. Specifically, you could develop a reverse form of Seasonal Affective Disorder called “Summer SAD,” which can show up as anxiety, lack of concentration, and insomnia.
The solution: When there are longer hours of daylight, Breus says “you may want to go inside a little earlier if you notice that you are having difficulty falling asleep in the summer.”
Now that people are starting to travel again, this might mean you’ve at last booked your dream summer vacation to a faraway locale. While exciting, all that jet lag can quickly add up to intense sleep deprivation. In fact, the American Sleep Association says that a whopping 93% of all travelers will experience jet lag at some point.
The solution: When Breus travels across time zones, he turns to an app called Timeshifter. You put in your flight times along with your starting point and destination, and voila! The app will tell you when you should be awake, when to skip caffeine, and when to sleep.
Too much alcohol
A summer happy hour isn’t complete without a fruity cocktail or two—but if you overdo it, you may regret it when you can’t sleep. Once your body metabolizes the alcohol, you can wake from sleep more easily. (Learn more about how alcohol affects sleep.)
The solution: Breus doesn’t mince words: “Alcohol will wreck your deep sleep,” he says. So he recommends stopping alcohol consumption three hours before bedtime and trying to limit yourself to two drinks.
Summer calendars tend to fill up in a flash, but all that running around and the stress that may come with it can turn up as poor sleep.
The solution: Instead of being quick to self-diagnose insomnia, Breus says that it can be as simple as adjusting your schedule according to your personality and sleep needs.
Specifically, he recommends getting the rest you require according to your “chronotype,” a system that will help you discover your sleep needs, unique circadian rhythm, and the times you’re productive. You can take his chronotype quiz to find out how all these things fit together in your life and how to make them work for your best possible sleep this summer—and beyond.
Use the added sunshine to your advantage and let it improve your sleep this season. Here’s how the summer sun can help you sleep.