No school, long weekends, vacation time —during the summer months, it’s no secret why many people feel more energized and active in comparison to the rest of the year. Especially with prolonger sun exposure from longer daylight hours, the extra boost of seratonin many people get during the summertime can make it hard to sit still.
Unless your sleep schedule is suffering!
Aside from our vitamin D levels, sun exposure can have a major impact on our circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythms are natural internal responses to our surrounding environments to help regulate our bodies’ 24-hour sleep-wake cycles. Light and darkness play big roles in our circadian rhythms. For instance, the amount of light our bodies are exposed to can help determine how much melatonin our bodies will produce throughout the night and when. Because the daytime is longer during the summer, it’s not uncommon for our sleep cycles to be disrupted.
“Summer’s longer days can contribute to delayed melatonin production, ultimately leading to sleep issues,” says clinical psychological Michael J. Breus, PhD, chief sleep advisor at Purple, explained to Well + Good.
A 2019 study of 1,388 people in Japan can support Breus’s claim. Based on the study’s results, researchers found that they saw changes in sleep duration both in the winter and the summertime. People were more likely to sleep for longer periods of time during the winter (when there is less light outside), and for shorter stretches of time during the summer.
Although sleep specialist Sujay Kansagra, MD, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program and Mattress Firm’s sleep-health expert, believes that the seasonal changes in our circadian rhythms are small, they admit that they can still can have a significant effect on our sleep patterns.
“If summer brings a time of increased social activity—say, you’re out and about later, and going to bed later—then I’d encourage you to sleep in a bit if you can, to make up the difference,” he says.
No matter what time of the year, it is always important to stribe for a solid seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. With this in mind, here are a few ways to get some quality shut eye during the summer season.
- Be More Physically Active
You’re probably sick and tired of people telling you work out. But let’s be honest, exercise is also one of the key ways to get a good night’s rest. Spending the extra daylight hours physically exhausting your body with a good hike or a run or a bikeride can help you fall asleep faster and more easily. To feel the benefits, Dr. Kansagra suggests doing at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day.
- Be Mindful of Artificial Light
You’ve probably heard a lot about blue light in recent years. Blue light, or the light emitted from our laptops, phone screens, and tablets, has become widely known for its disruptive effects on our sleep cycles. Because our brains can’t distinguish between sunlight and artificial light, it’s important to regulate the amount of artificial light you expose your brain and eyes to right before bed. Dr. Kansagra recommends turning off your devices anytime from half an hour to an hour before sleep in order to help your brain fall asleep quicker.
- Lower the Temperature In Your Room….And Body
Research has shown that cooler temperatures— specifically 65°F (18.3°C), give or take a few degrees— are optimal for a quality night’s rest. Because our body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, in particular during our sleep, it’s important to keep our sleeping environment nice and cool to help our body also cool down. One 2012 study found that the temperature of the room where you sleep is one of the most important factors in achieving quality sleep.
- Take Some Time Off
In many cases, the summer time offers people the opportunity to recharge and set their circadian clocks. Especially given the longer daylight hours, taking a break from work in order to rest and recharge can have a big impact on maintaining a steady sleep cycle throughout the summer months.