In fact, 50 to 70 million adults have a sleep disorder and are not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep needed to stay healthy and functional. Studies show that children and teenagers are also not getting enough sleep. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night and children, depending on their age, need anywhere from 9 to 14. Add in summer time factors—such as longer days, hotter temperatures, less structure without school, new activities, and increased usage of electronics—and sleep can become even more elusive.
The increased heat and humidity in the summer can have a huge impact on your sleep. Your body temperature typically drops one half of a degree at night—heat can interfere with this dip, making it difficult to fall asleep peacefully. If you don’t have access to an air conditioner or fan, here are some other simple steps you can take to alleviate heat- and light-related sleep issues:
- Close your drapes or blinds during the day to keep your room temperature down. Even better, opt for blackout curtains on your windows. These curtains block out the sunlight as well as insulate against the heat.
- Try a sleeping mask. If there is light in your bedroom, it can heavily impact your sleep cycle. A sleeping mask will ensure that additional light doesn’t affect your ability to get a quality night’s rest.
- Make sure you have the right sheets. Sheets that are a light, breathable fabric—such as cotton or linen—are the best for the summer months.
- Take a shower before bed. The evaporation of the water off moist skin and hair has a chilling effect, making it easier to fall asleep.
Summertime activities can throw your routine off track by keeping you up past your bedtime, further affecting your sleep. While occasionally staying up late is fine, making a habit of it can really affect your quality of sleep. Try to maintain consistent bed and wake times as much as possible. Also, be sure to avoid excessive drinking. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it contributes to poor sleep quality, as it interrupts your circadian rhythm and blocks REM sleep.
Using electronics before bed—like playing video games, watching television, and looking at your phone—can also disturb your sleep. However, 90 percent of Americans admit to using an electronic device during the hour before bed. The stimulation from these bright screens can make it difficult to sleep, which is why it’s important to keep a digital curfew for the entire family. The earlier in the evening the better, but you should avoid using electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
This article first appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.