8 Tips to Get the Rest You Need—Even in the Summer

A woman stretching and yawning in bed after waking up in the morning

A woman stretching and yawning in bed after waking up in the morning

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If you find that your sleep patterns vary with the seasons, then you are not alone. In fact, research suggests a change in seasons can impact everything from your mood and sleep duration to the frequency of sleep abnormalities. Summer, in particular, can make it difficult to get good quality sleep, especially with the increased daylight hours, warmer weather, and more socializing that the season brings.

Yet, despite the fact that many of these variables are outside of your control, there are things you can do to promote better sleep—even in the summer.

Read on to learn more about why you may be struggling to get adequate sleep during the warmer months and what you can do to combat it.

Why Is It Hard to Get Good Sleep in the Summer?

Approximately 1 in 3 adults, or about 84 million people, do not consistently get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health. This issue can become exacerbated in the summer. If you fid this rings true for you, here are some science-backed reasons why you may get less sleep during the warmer months of the year.

More Daylight

The most likely culprit behind your inability to sleep during the summer months is all the extra sunlight exposure you tend to get in the evenings. In fact, all of this extra light suppresses your body’s melatonin production, which is a hormone that plays a key role in letting your body know that it is time to sleep.

It also can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep-wake cycles, Chester Wu, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist in Houston, Texas, told Health. In fact, research shows that exposure to light later during the day contributes to more episodes of waking during the night. The longer you are exposed to daylight, the longer your body will think it is time to stay awake.

Warmer Temperatures

The warmer weather that often accompanies summer also can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Your body naturally cools down as it is preparing for slumber, but if your home or your room is too warm, it is likely you will get less sleep, said Dr. Wu.

One study found that by beginning of the 21st century, higher temperatures have caused the loss of 44 hours of sleep due to less than optimal nighttime temperatures. This resulted in about 11 nights of missed sleep per person. The researchers note that if environmental temperatures continue to rise, these higher nighttime temperatures could potentially erode 50 to 58 hours of sleep per person every year.

They also found that the risk of insufficient sleep increased dramatically when temperatures rose above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And, on particularly warm nights—above 86 degrees Fahrenheit—people slept an average of about 14 minutes less at night.

Social Factors

During the summer months, people often have an increase in social activities, work events, and other social factors that can lead to later bedtimes and disrupted sleep schedules, said Dr. Wu. Sometimes referred to as social jet lag, this disruption in sleep is the result of social and work obligations.

If you experience social jet lag, you may experience a discrepancy between your biological time, which is determined by your internal body clock, and social times, which are dictated by your social obligations.

In fact, research suggests that 70% of people experience at least one hour of social jet lag, while others may experience as much as two hours or more.

Travel and Vacations

A lot of people travel in the summer, which can lead to a disruption in sleep schedules. Not only is it challenging to sleep in an unfamiliar bed, but you also may experience sleep loss due to disruptions in your normal routines and the desire to pack as much fun into the experience as possible. Even jet lag plays a role in the lost sleep during summer.

Jet lag—which is a disruption of your circadian rhythm—can cause insomnia, daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, and gastrointestinal issues, all of which disrupt your sleep. And to further complicate matters, research shows that it can worsen before resolving. Even the direction of your flight plays a role, with flying east making it more difficult adjust. In fact, jet lag symptoms do not let up until your circadian clock is resynchronized.

11 Health Benefits of Sleep

Tips for Better Sleep During Summer

As many as 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep issues that hinder their daily functioning and negatively impact their health and longevity. In fact, not getting quality sleep can lead to mood disorders, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and more. But there are things you can do to improve your sleep—even when it is hot outside. Here are eight ways you can get better sleep.

Establish a Sleep Routine (And Stick to It)

One of the best ways to promote better sleep hygiene is to establish a bedtime routine—and a consistent bedtime—and then stick to it no matter what. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends and vacations, can help regulate your body's internal clock and improve the quality of your sleep, said Dr. Wu.

To help your mind and body prepare for sleep, it also can be helpful to do the same things each night before bed. For instance, try taking some time to relax and do things you enjoy like reading a book, listening to soft music, or soaking in the tub. You also can set the mood by changing into comfortable pajamas and keeping the lights low.

Be Active During the Day (But Limit Exercise at Night)

Even though exercise is essential to your health, the timing of when you do it is also important, especially if you want to make sure you get the rest you need. For the best results, try exercising in the early-morning sun. Doing so, helps set your body clock and is less likely to interfere with your sleep. Likewise, you should avoid exercising in the evening before bed.

Keep in mind that exercise generates heat, which can make it a challenge for your body to cool down like it needs to in order to promote sleep, especially when it is hot outside. For this reason, if you cannot exercise in the morning, make sure your evening workout is at least 90 minutes before bedtime so that your body has time to cool down.

Watch What You Eat and Drink Before Bed

While you may already know that you should limit caffeine in the evening, you also should limit your use of alcohol in the hours before bed, said Dr. Wu. Even eating late at night can interfere with the quality of your sleep. If you are committed to getting better sleep this summer, he recommends a three to four hour cutoff of alcohol before bed and two to three hours before bed for your last meal.

For instance, research indicates that large amounts of alcohol prior to sleep makes it harder for you to get good quality sleep. A large part of this is due to the fact that high blood alcohol levels can disrupt sleep.

The 4 Stages of Sleep And What Happens in Each

Keep Your Room Cool

When you sleep in a cool environment, you will be better able to fall asleep and stay asleep. In fact, Dr. Wu said that the ideal room temperature is around 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But because thermal comfort can be subjective, he recommended experimenting to find your sweet spot.

There are a number of ways to stay cool at night. Not only can you try using air conditioning or fans, but even a cooling mattress or mattress topper can help you sleep cool. You also may want to switch out your bedding for a lighter version and opt for blackout curtains to keep your room cool and dark. Even putting your sheets in the freezer or setting a tray of ice in front of a fan can help you stay cool at night.

Change the Way You Sleep

Sometimes getting better sleep can be as simple as changing your sleeping position or even changing what you are sleeping in. For instance, sleep experts recommend sleeping with your arms and legs spread out. Doing so, helps you release body heat instead of retaining it. This approach is especially beneficial if you normally sleep curled into a ball.

You also can try choosing sleepwear that is made with natural fibers like cotton, light wool, or silk. In fact, research shows that when compared with synthetic materials like polyester, pajamas that are made from these fabrics can help you fall asleep faster.

Sleep Alone

If you have the space, you may want to consider sleeping alone—especially if you have a pet or a partner who normally shares the bed with you. In fact, when two bodies are touching or in close contact with one another, they tend to radiate heat. And when this happens, it can increase the temperature of the surrounding area. Consequently, sharing your bed with another person or your pet may create a hotter environment, that ultimately makes it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Take a Shower at Bedtime

Because it can be hard for your body to naturally lower its core temperature when it is hot outside, you can help it along by taking a shower before bed. In fact, researchers in one study hypothesized that people had trouble falling asleep in warm environments because the internal temperature of their bodies was interfering with their circadian temperature regulation and ultimately leading to poor sleep. Likewise, a review of nearly 5,400 studies found that a lukewarm shower one to two hours before bed can significantly improve your sleep.

Limit Light Exposure at Night

You also want dim lights as it gets close to bedtime to help your body produce melatonin at the right time, said Dr. Wu. After all, exposure to blue light, which primarily comes from electronics, can disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle, making it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.

To combat the impact of blue light on your sleep quality, try lowering the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses about 90 minutes before bed, said Dr. Wu. In fact, one review researchers noted that wearing blue light glasses could be effective in reducing insomnia. They also noted that these glasses may help people with sleep disorders and jet lag get better sleep.

A Quick Review

Getting good sleep is an essential part of your overall health and wellbeing. Without it, you are at risk for a number of health issues including everything from mood disorders and heart issues, to obesity and diabetes. For this reason it is important to get a good night's rest.

But getting the sleep you need in the summer can be challenging—especially when your social calendar fills up and the temperatures heat up. Fortunately, there are things you can do to promote quality sleep like sticking to a bedtime routine, keeping your room cool and dark, and limiting food and drink before bed.

If you try these things and are still struggling to get a good night's rest, talk to a healthcare provider. It is possible that you have a sleep disorder that could be interfering with your rest.

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