By Katy Duncan, Contributing Blogger
Summertime brings with it blue skies, longer days with plenty of sunshine, a vacation or two, and more time spent socializing. All that extra activity and daylight can really wear someone down!
When it’s time to hit the hay, it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. You’re probably still hitting the snooze button as the sun is making its early crawl across the sky the next day.
Lots of people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep during the summer months. You’re not alone in that and you don’t need to lose sleep over it (pun intended.) During the summer, our circadian rhythms, AKA your natural sleep cycle, gets disturbed due to the extra daylight hours. When your body would usually start producing melatonin and winding down for the night, the sun says, “No way!” And we end up staying up later than we had planned. A study back in 2019 goes in depth about our circadian rhythm and how light disrupts it but in other words, we need darkness in order to sleep well.
Another contributing factor in getting less summer sleep is stress. Most of us are far more active socially during the summer months; attending weddings, going on vacations, taking more trips to the lake or beach. It’s exhausting! Combine that with the wave of heat that hits you and you’re bound for a stressful day-even if it’s meant to be fun. Over activity leads to chaos in the mind. When you finally get a chance to relax, it can be hard to switch off stress mode.
Here are a few ways you can get a better night’s sleep when the sun just can’t stop shining and you can’t slow down.
Sleep Tip #1 - Make it Dark
Having darkness when you sleep is essential to that circadian rhythm we talked about. Your brain associates darkness with a time to sleep and will start producing melatonin to get that process going. If you have light streaming in through your windows still at 9 PM and you have to be up at 5 AM, you’re right on the cut off of getting enough sleep. And that’s if you fall asleep right at 9 PM. So how do you make it darker earlier in your room so your brain knows it’s sleepy time?
Black out curtains are one way you can set the tone in the bedroom for a good night's sleep. While these are thicker and typically bulkier than your average curtain, they do a good job at blocking out light and are worth every penny; even if you only use them seasonally. Don’t forget to get the necessary curtain hanging equipment to put these up too. Regular ol’ thumbtacks won’t keep these babies on the wall!
Another way to make it darker in your bedroom that’s less time consuming and more cost effective than putting up black out curtains is getting an eye mask. Just like the ones you see in rom-com movies and airline flights everywhere. Get a plain colored one or jazz it up with a sassy saying embroidered on the front like, “Beauty queen needs her beauty sleep.”
Last but not least in the process of making it dark; turn off all lights and electronic devices. If you turn off the lights, put up your black out curtains but leave your eye mask resting on your head while you doom scroll through your phone for the next 3 hours…you’re not going to actually be in a dark room getting a good night's sleep and letting your circadian rhythm do its thing. Turn off your lights and screens and lay in the dark.
I know that sounds pretty boring. So boring in fact that you may end up letting your mind wander for hours-still not falling asleep. We’ll talk about how to fix that later.
Sleep Tip #2 - Have a Solid Bedtime Routine
Having a solid bedtime routine will help your body and mind recognize when it’s time to start slowing down in anticipation of bedtime. Aiming to start your bedtime routine, whatever it is, roughly an hour before you plan to close your eyes is a good strategy. Repeating the same slow, calm activities before you go to bed will help your mind shift out of “Go, go, go” and into “Slow, slow, slow.” Here are a few calm bedtime activities you could include in your routine:
- Full skincare routine and Gua Sha massage
- Drink a cup of tea
- Listen to a guided meditation
- Take a bath
- Listen to calming music and relax
Whatever you decide to do with your hour before bed, make it count. Set the tone for relaxation and set yourself up for a good night's sleep.
Sleep Tip #3 - Set the Mood with Sleep Sounds and Meditations
Remember when I said you just needed to lay in the dark till you fell asleep? And remember when I said that could potentially be so boring that you don’t fall asleep at all? Here’s how to fix that.
Play some soothing sleep sounds to help you fall asleep (rain on a tent and swap sounds are what do it for me) and pretend you’re falling asleep somewhere beautiful; in your happy place. If natural sounds don’t wind you down, you can try a guided meditation instead.
There’s plenty of these floating around on YouTube and Spotify and they’ll talk you through a relaxing, mindful meditation to help you fall asleep. I would say ASMR falls into this category as well if that gets your melatonin flowin’.
Bonus Sleep Tip: How to Get Better Sleep When it’s Hot
Oftentimes, with the longer summer days and more hours of actual sunlight, there comes a higher temperature as well. Sometimes, this temperature lingers past nightfall and can make for an uncomfortable, sweaty night's sleep. Here’s a couple of tips to help you catch better zzz’z when the heat hits.
The summer season is short and I’m sure we’ll all be catching up on some sleep this fall and winter. If you just have to get your 8 hours in (or more-- hey, some people need 9-10) then hopefully these tips help you count less sheep and catch more zzz’s.
Sweet summer dreams!