6 Ways Long Summer Days Can Affect Sleep (And Potential Solutions)
Many of us eagerly look forward to the arrival of summer and its many delights: more hours of daylight, trips to the beach and the long-awaited return of ice cream. But as much as we love the warm weather, memorable adventures and sweet treats, there’s no denying that summertime can be tough on our sleep schedules. Increased daylight, sweltering temperatures and sneaky summer stress can all affect our sleep, making a good night’s sleep seem impossible. Keep reading to learn exactly how the warmer months can affect your summer snoozing — and what you can do to ensure you catch more Zzzs.
1. Light Delays Your Melatonin Production
During the summer, the sun rises earlier in the morning and sets later at night, which means we get more sunlight. That’s a good thing, right? You’ll get more exercise and vitamin D!
Well, not so fast. Light directly impacts the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin, the “sleep hormone” that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The more sunlight your body absorbs, the less melatonin it produces, and the harder the struggle to get to bed at a decent hour.
The Fix: Be strategic with your light exposure. Light exposure in the morning can help you sleep, while evening light exposure can do the opposite. To get sunlight, take a walk first thing in the morning and leave your sunglasses at home. At night, wear a sleep mask that blocks out all light and helps you get a good night’s sleep.
2. Stifling Temperatures Make it Difficult to Sleep
You probably know from firsthand experience that sleeping in a hot and muggy bedroom isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s rest. Your body’s core temperature naturally decreases at night, which is why most people sleep better in a slightly cooler bedroom.
For a cooler night’s sleep, you should keep your bedroom thermostat somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you don’t have air conditioning, don’t worry — there are plenty of tricks and tips to keep you cool as you sleep.
The Fix: Use a bedside fan to create a windchill effect in your bedroom. Draw the curtains to keep your sleep area cool. Invest in natural bedding and sheets, which tend to have greater breathability and cooling properties.
3. Allergies Can Disrupt Your Snooze
Few things can sabotage your sleep quite like a hacking cough, stuffy nose and an unbearably itchy face. Yes, we’re talking about allergies, which can persist well into the summer — and may even occur year-round in warmer climates. Allergens like ragweed (which typically blooms in late July and August) and grass pollens can wreak havoc on our nasal passages, making it hard to breathe and negatively affecting your slumber.
The Fix: Take allergy medication at night. If over-the-counter allergy medications don’t work for you, see your doctor for prescription medication. You can also alleviate allergy symptoms by showering before bed, doing extra laundry, using an air purifier and not sleeping with open doors and windows.
4. Summer Stress Can Keep you Awake
For all its laidback BBQs and carefree days by the pool, summer isn’t nearly as relaxing as people think. In a study from the Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poland, researchers studied the cortisol levels of female medical students in summer and winter. They found that participants had higher cortisol levels in the warmer months than in the colder months.
Busy weekends, extended time with family and the constant pressure to have a “bikini body” are just a few things that can potentially lead to heightened stress levels in the summertime. When left unchecked, this stress can persist into the evening, keeping us hyper-alert when we should be winding down for bed.
The Fix: Stress management is key to getting the sleep you need to feel well-rested and rejuvenated. In addition to getting exercise and eating a healthy diet, you can alleviate symptoms of stress at night by winding down with a soothing weighted blanket, guided meditation and deep breathing.
5. Late-night Socializing Can Throw off your Sleep Schedule
No summer would be complete without a night spent gathered around a beach bonfire with friends, reminiscing about good times. Unfortunately, participating in these moonlit get-togethers can push your bedtime back by hours, causing you to miss out on that precious Zzzs. If you’re now thinking, “I’ll just sleep in the next morning,” consider this study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which found that following a different sleep schedule on the weekends is associated with a pronounced increase in poorer health, worse mood and heart disease.
The Fix: Maintaining a stable and healthy sleep schedule, even on the weekends, is ideal. However, turning down every invitation to late-night gatherings isn’t realistic and could even be detrimental to your mental health and well-being. Instead, try to limit the number of late nights you spend with friends to two or three times a month, max. If you must sleep in the next morning, make sure you set your alarm to avoid oversleeping and disrupting your body’s internal clock.
6. Increased Alcohol Consumption Leads to Poor Sleep
A jam-packed social calendar often goes hand in hand with drinking alcohol, which can compound summer sleep problems. That’s because pre-bedtime drinking can disrupt what’s known as your sleep architecture, the structure of sleep cycles you go through every night.
The Fix: For a good night’s sleep, you’re better off skipping the nightcap entirely. However, if you really want to enjoy some libations, consider sticking with low-alcohol drinks (white wine spritzers, low-proof Mint Juleps, light beers, etc.). And if possible, try to consume your alcoholic beverage at least four hours before bedtime.
Long summer days don’t have to be a recipe for poor sleep. Using the tips above, you can overcome some of the more common sleep challenges in the summertime and enjoy the season to its fullest!