It’s hard to sleep when the sun is high. Try these tips to rest easy.
There are plenty of things to look forward to in the summer: better weather, vacations, time spent by the beach.
Difficulty sleeping isn’t one of them.
If you find it harder to sleep during the summer months, you’re not alone.
Whether it’s difficulty nodding off or trouble staying asleep, longer daylight hours and hotter temperatures can make it harder to get the rest you need.
Read on to learn why and what you can do about it.
Why is it harder to sleep in the summer?
According to a 2011 studyTrusted Source, seasonal variations can affect how well we sleep.
Researchers found that waking times were earlier in the summer, while sleep issues such as insomnia and fatigue were less common in winter (although people can still have sleep issues in winter).
Here are some reasons you may not be sleeping as well during summer.
Increased daylight hours
A 2019 studyTrusted Source notes that exposure to light later in the day contributes to more episodes of waking during the night and less slow-wave or delta sleep. This is a sleep phase that contributes to feelings of restfulness.
The same study identifies light as the single most important external factor affecting circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that controls our sleep-wake cycle.
“The longer daylight hours and the higher, sometimes humid, temperatures make it difficult to sleep well,” says Kat Lederle, PhD, MSc.
Lederle is a sleep scientist, chronobiologist, and head of sleep at Somnia.
“Your body clock, which is located in your brain, uses light and darkness as signals for day and night,” she says. “The longer we ‘see’ light, the longer the body clock will tell the body it’s daytime and it needs to stay awake.”
Delayed melatonin release
When it gets dark, our body clock signals that it’s time to sleep with the release of the hormone melatonin. As the sun comes up, melatonin secretion stops so the body can prepare for the day.
“Due to the longer daylight hours in summer, the time of melatonin secretion is shorter than in winter,” Lederle says. “This is one reason why you might wake up earlier and sleep a little less in summer.”
Hypnotherapist and sleep expert Dipti Tait says sleep may be further disrupted if you’re stressed or have a lot on your mind.
“Hormones and chemicals play a huge role in our ability to maintain balance and homeostasis,” Tait says.
For example, the hormonal changes of menopause or the adrenal and chemical imbalances from anxiety and stress “will have a huge impact on our ability to release melatonin effectively and ultimately switch off,” she says.
Lifestyle factors may also be at play.
“Because the days are longer, we generally do more, and also find our socializing increases,” Tait says. “With the summertime lifestyle being more social, we may find we’re eating later and drinking more alcohol.”
Tait also notes that our sleeping hours may be reduced, as it’s common to go to bed later and wake with the earlier morning sun.
“This can have an adverse effect on our general sleeping pattern, causing frequent nighttime waking or potential overtiredness in the daytime,” she says.
“We make the most of the longer daylight and the warm weather,” she says. “However, our busy social calendars also take away time from sleep.”
As Tait mentioned, staying up longer socializing may also mean more alcohol intake. According to Lederle, this doesn’t help our sleep in the long term.
“While alcohol can help us to get to sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half of the night,” she says. “Sleep becomes more fragmented, and we wake up feeling unrefreshed.”
Combined with longer daylight hours, higher temperatures can also play a part in disrupting sleep.
“When we’re too warm, our body moves out of the relaxed state and very subtly moves into a heightened state of awareness,” Tait says.
According to Tait, this is a built-in safety mechanism to prevent the body from overheating.
“Our subconscious mind will wake us up to regulate our inner thermostat and return it back to a normal body temperature,” she says. “When our body temperature drops, this is a signal that it’s ‘safe’ to sleep again. Our sleeping will be much deeper and more consistent.”
How to get the rest you need
With increased daylight hours messing with your circadian rhythm, higher temps keeping you awake, and socializing affecting the quality of your sleep, it may feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.
Don’t despair! There are ways you can get the rest you need during the longer summer days.
You can start with the following tips.
Keep a consistent schedule
Lederle says it’s important to go to bed on time and get up on time. However, she notes it’s also important to be realistic.
“Late nights happen, and that’s OK if it happens once or twice in a while,” she says. “Try and stick to your normal sleep times on most other nights.”
Decrease your exposure to light during the day
Decreasing your exposure to light, especially in the evening hours, can help your body prepare for sleep.
“During the day, keep the curtains shut,” Lederle says. “In the evening, open the windows so as to create a breeze to cool the room.”
Keep your nighttime temperature low
Keeping your space ventilated may improve sleep quality, says Lederle. Prop open a window or door, or use a fan.
The best temperature for sleep is believed to be about 65°F (18.3°C).
Learn how to relax
Tait believes relaxation is an underused skill. Making it a habit can drastically improve your ability to fall and stay asleep.
“If you learn how to relax on repeat, you can easily calm your system at night and fall asleep no matter what the season is doing,” Tait says. “Find quiet ‘me times,’ even if it’s a few minutes here and there, to collect your thoughts.”
According to Tait, this is a good practice beyond the warm summer months.
“It’s so important that we take the time to be able to regroup, calibrate, and de-stress during the day so we aren’t overloaded by the time our head hits the pillow,” she says.
If you’re struggling to get to sleep during the longer summer days, Lederle’s number one piece of advice is to let go of worrying.
“Worrying can get you worked up and hinder sleep even more,” she says.
Darken your room before bed
A 2017 study found that people who were exposed to light in the morning hours slept better than those who weren’t.
Lederle says a dark room can promote a more peaceful sleep, but advises against using blackout curtains.
“A bit of light in the morning helps your body clock know that day is coming,” she says. “It will get your body ready before you actually wake up.”
Instead of blackout curtains, opt for a sleep mask.
Develop good sleep habits
Tait believes the more you develop good sleep habits, the more your brain will learn to associate these habits with sleep.
“It could be a warm bath to wind down, a nice novel to read, or even some gentle stretching. Some people also write in a gratitude journal,” she says.
“Find a practice that works for you at nighttime and repeat it until it becomes a new positive sleep habit,” she advises.
Use lightweight fabrics
If it’s higher temperatures that are bothering you, Lederle suggests wearing lightweight pajamas and using thin bed sheets that wick away moisture.
“Try putting your pajamas in the freezer for a few hours to cool them down,” Lederle says.
You can also try lightweight, heat-wicking fabrics like silk, satin, or bamboo for your sheets, comforter, and pillowcases.
Try sleep hypnosis
Sleep hypnosis might be an option when other methods aren’t working.
“This nighttime practice is a good way to train the brain to switch off at the right time and go into a deep, calming, restful, and restorative sleep,” Tait says.
A 2018 reviewTrusted Source of 24 studies found that 58.3 percent of the studies on hypnosis resulted in sleep benefits. The technique also has few adverse effects.
Still, more high-quality studies are needed.
You can find guided sleep hypnosis recordings on YouTube. To find a practitioner, try an online search with the terms “hypnosis,” “sleep hypnosis,” or “hypnotherapy” and your location.
Pro tip: If you live in a smaller town, searching for the closest major city will return more results.
Falling and staying asleep may feel more difficult during the long summer days. This is due to an increase in daylight hours, higher temperatures, and lifestyle factors, like more time socializing.
Still, there are steps you can take to get the rest you need.
Each person is different, so experiment to find what works best for you.