5 Reasons You’re Finding It Hard To Sleep in the Summer
Originally published by Lindsay Dodgson on Insider.
But summer can bring its issues too. The long, warm days are great for our social lives, but they can also wreak havoc with our sleep.
David Brodner, a leading sleep specialist who is double board certified in otolaryngology and sleep medicine, and founder of the Center for Sinus, Allergy and Sleep Wellness in Palm Beach County, Florida, told Business Insider there are several ways summer can ruin our sleep patterns, both biologically and socially.
Light Affects Our Hormones
The first reason is our hormones, which the National Sleep Foundation lists as one of the most common causes of insomnia. In particular, melatonin production, which is the hormone produced by the body to make us sleepy when it gets dark, is regulated by sunlight, which enters our eyes, and triggers our brain to stay awake.
When the sun goes down and it gets darker, our melatonin level rises, we feel tired, and it’s the signal for the brain it’s time to sleep.
“In the summer, the days do get longer, so we are being stimulated by sunlight later and later, and depending on where you live it might be very late,” Brodner said. “And so this natural sunlight stimulus for the melatonin is delayed so your body won’t feel like going to sleep until later in the evening and into the nighttime.”
So as the day lengthens, our natural sleep pattern, called the circadian rhythm, is delayed.
To combat this, Brodner says you can create an artificial night time by doing certain things.
“Let’s say maybe your job or something requires you to be outside, you can actually use these certain kinds of sunglasses that block out the sunlight, so that it’s not as stimulating to your eyes,” he said. “This is what we use for shift workers, who work all night and they’re trying to sleep during the day — we tell them to wear sunglasses as they drive home in the mornings so the sun doesn’t stimulate them.”
Creating a healthy sleeping environment in the bedroom is also important, such as getting blackout blinds, and not having lights on in the evening.
Our Devices Don’t Help…
The second major disruptor is our devices — our phones, tablets, and televisions. Not only does this create light that can stop us from feeling sleepy, but it emits a particular blue wavelength of light which is the most stimulating part of sunlight to our brain for melatonin regulation.
Thirdly, in some places around the world, everyone has air conditioning. But in other places, people aren’t so lucky. So when a particularly hot week comes around, it can be pretty unpleasant. Brodner said that it is actually harder to sleep when it gets hotter because when your body is getting ready to sleep, its temperature decreases.
“So one of the things about this healthy sleep environment is that you want to reduce the temperature in your bedroom,” he said. “There’s some discussion of what the ideal sleep temperature is. It’s between 60 and 67 Fahrenheit. So keep it around 65. But during the summer it might be harder to do that if you don’t have an air conditioner, and the ambient air temperature is just going to be hotter in the summer.”
A fourth reason is our summer schedules. When schools break up for the holidays, those with children will have to deal with them staying up much later than they would in school time. The parents’ schedule, however, stays the same.
There’s also the matter of people in summer behaving like it’s the summer holidays, even if they left school decades ago. People tend to be a lot more relaxed and may stay up later as a result of the longer days.