Sunshine and warm weather are a boost to the spirit after a long, hard winter. But they may not do much for your sleep. In fact, if you’re sensitive to light and heat, long days and warm nights can be a setup for insomnia.
Here’s how to get more sleep as we move into June and July.
Manage Your Exposure to Light
For people who live in northern latitudes, the daily dose of sunlight at the approach of the summer solstice is nearly double what it is at the winter solstice. Extra bright light in the morning may not be a problem. In fact, it can help synchronize circadian rhythms and give you the same lift as a cup of coffee. (If sunlight wakes you up too early, install light-blocking curtains on your bedroom windows.)
But daylight that extends past 9 and 10 p.m. can delay secretion of the hormone melatonin, postponing the onset of sleep. If you go to bed at your normal bedtime, you can’t sleep. You toss and turn rather than quickly drifting off.
Manage summer insomnia by cutting down on your exposure to bright light in the evening and at night:
- Wear sunglasses when you’re outside
- Draw shades and curtains around 8:30 p.m., and lower the lights in your home.
- Sign off devices with screens an hour or 2 before bedtime, or wear blue light-blocking glasses
- Put red lightbulbs in nightlights. (While exposure to white light at night may affect your sleep, exposure to red light likely will not.)
Heat can be a factor in summertime insomnia. Research shows that people tend to sleep more readily when their core body temperature is falling, and that extreme ambient heat may interfere with the internal cooling process that normally occurs at night. The ideal room temperature for sleep is a little bit lower than is comfortable with during the daytime, so to get more sleep in the summer,
- Keep your shades drawn to block out heat from the sun.
- Use air conditioning and fans to lower the temperature of your bedroom.
- If air conditioning and fans are unavailable, consider sleeping in a lower level of your home.
There are other ways to facilitate internal heat loss and cool down. Research shows—paradoxically—that engaging in activities that increase skin temperature actually help to cool you down. Warming the skin hastens internal heat loss by dilating blood vessels close to the skin. This allows for the swift release of body heat and a lowering of core body temperature, in turn promoting sleep. So a few hours before you normally go to bed,
- Take a hot shower, bath, or foot bath
- Treat yourself to a sauna
- Work up a sweat by doing some kind of aerobic exercise.
At times when you can’t do much of anything in the evening or control the ambient temperature (say you’re driving across country and the air conditioning is broken in the only motel room available at 10 p.m.), take a cool shower before hopping into bed and lie down with a cool washcloth on your forehead.