Summer means soaking up the sun, spending time outdoors until the sun goes down, beach vacations and gardens in full bloom. You might notice summer is also a season of sleeplessness.
Crawling under the covers for a good night’s rest when temperatures are soaring and turning out the lights when the sun is still up doesn’t make for a restful sleep environment. Here are four reasons it might be harder to fall asleep until the temperatures drop, days get shorter, leaves turn colors and autumn arrives.
You want to soak up each moment on vacation but booking that sunrise paddling trip and watching outdoor movies under the stars throws your regular sleep schedule out of whack — and the impact is even more intense if you travel to a different time zone.
A 2019 study found that for every hour your bedtime varies, your risk of developing metabolic factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and obesity increased 27%.
Dr. Dan Root, a board-certified sleep specialist and founder of Oregon Sleep Associates suggests trying to maintain a regular sleep schedule on vacation, adding, “It’ll be much easier to return to your normal schedule after you get back home.”
Blame Mother Nature for those sleepless summer nights. You are most likely to slip into REM sleep when your core temperature is low — and hot summer nights make it harder to drift into this stage of deep sleep.
“We naturally start to lower our body temperature before bed, with the act of cooling down being a trigger for sleep onset,” says Dr. Steven Holfinger, sleep medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “The hot temperatures of summer can cause problems if it remains too hot to be comfortable at night.”
Some research shows higher temperatures make you more apt to wake up during the night and spend less time in the deeper states of sleep. You’ll sleep better and feel more alert in the morning when your room temperature is a chilly 65–68ºF.
In addition to turning down the air conditioning to cool the room, Holfinger suggests switching to lighter blankets or switching on a fan to keep the air moving.
If your normal bedtime is on the earlier side, you might be calling it a night when the sun is still shining, especially once the clocks spring forward. Longer days can have an impact on your circadian rhythm, leading to increased sleep disturbances and sleeplessness, according to 2018 research. Moving the clocks forward has also been associated with an increased risk of fatal traffic accidents, heart attacks, more emergency room visits and a higher likelihood of missing a medical appointment.
“Shifting to daylight saving time is equivalent to an hour of jet lag,” Holfinger says. “If you have difficulty waking up early and want to reduce the effects of the one-hour ‘spring-forward,’ try changing both your bedtime and wake time to half an hour earlier a couple of days before the shift to make the switch a bit easier.”
The colorful blooms and lush tree canopies that make summer such a pretty season can also cause red eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. More than 50 million Americans suffer with allergies and the symptoms can be especially intense during the summer when pollen counts are high. Up to 75% of allergy sufferers experience sleep disturbances.
Root blames allergies for causing a stuffy nose that wakes you up at night, explaining, “Your brain senses that you’re not breathing well and signals you to wake up multiple times.”
Talk to your doctor about allergy medications to alleviate the symptoms or try a few tactics to minimize the effects of allergies while you sleep, such as a nasal rinse before bed to wash the allergens out of your nose so you can breathe easier overnight. If you have seasonal allergies, sleep with the windows closed to avoid a sleep-deprived summer.