Written by: Kate Higham
Summer. A season filled with barbeques, beach trips, and busy social schedules can also pose challenges to one of life’s greatest (and most important) activities… sleep! Longer days, a change in routine, and hot, humid weather make summer a difficult season to get a good night’s sleep.
If you find your sleep patterns fluctuate with the changing seasons, rest assured you’re not alone. In fact, studies show that approximately 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. have ongoing sleep disorders . So what can you do to get quality shut-eye during warmer summer nights? We asked our health experts for their top summer sleep hacks!
The importance of good sleep for good health
Sleep is crucial to maintaining good physical and mental health. Its primary function is to allow the brain time to rest and recharge. It’s like hitting a reset button, enabling us to perform physically and mentally at our best.
While we all need different quantities of sleep to meet our baseline needs, what’s just as important is the quality of the rest we’re getting. Quality sleep involves cycling through different sleep stages, including deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Deep sleep promotes physical restoration, while REM sleep is associated with memory and learning. We need both types of sleep for optimal sleep quality. Good quality sleep is also crucial for many important processes and functions in the body, including:
- Cognitive function: As we sleep, our brains process information that helps improve our cognitive skills, like learning, memory, and creativity.
- Focus levels: Poor sleep, or a lack of it, has been shown to have a negative effect on focus , concentration, and productivity.
- Healthy immune system: Sleep allows the body to replenish its immune cells, which are responsible for fighting off germs and other factors that can cause illness.
- Mental and emotional health: Quality sleep helps regulate our mood, reduces stress, and enhances our ability to concentrate and make decisions.
How summer impacts your sleep
Approximately 1 in 3 adults, or about 84 million people in the US, do not consistently get the recommended amount of sleep they need for optimum health . This issue can become exacerbated in the summer for three key reasons:
The summer heat can make it more challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep. As your body naturally cools down in preparation for sleep, excessively warm room temperatures can hinder this process and reduce the amount of sleep you get.
Change in routine
Travel, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, and overall changes to your daily routine can disrupt your sleep schedule and even lead to sleep loss. Jet lag, which commonly affects those flying across five or more time zones , can also cause various sleep-related issues such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, and gastrointestinal problems.
5 tips for a restful summer slumber
Tossing and turning? We’re here to help! From establishing a consistent sleep routine to creating a sleep-friendly environment, our experts share their top five tips to get the best possible sleep this summer.
1. Cool your environment
Your bedroom plays a significant role in your sleep quality at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit . Maintaining a cooler room temperature helps your body achieve the ideal state for restful sleep and prevents restlessness. During the day, keep windows and curtains closed to prevent heat from coming in and raising the temperature of the room.
2. Choose sleep-friendly attire
Opt for natural fibers like cotton and linen for sleepwear during the summer. These materials are breathable and help keep you cool, unlike synthetics like polyester, which can make you wake up feeling sweaty. Switch to lighter bedding materials, such as linen, bamboo, or cotton, to enhance breathability and reduce sweating.
3. Establish a routine
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and vacations, to regulate your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality. Engaging in a calming bedtime routine can signal our bodies that it’s time to unwind. Activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can help prepare us for a peaceful slumber.
4. Watch what you consume
It’s important to avoid stimulants like caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime, as they can disrupt our sleep patterns. Eating late at night can also impact sleep quality. When we consume a heavy meal or snack close to bedtime, our bodies are focused on digestion rather than relaxation. This can lead to discomfort, indigestion, and difficulty falling asleep. Instead, aim for a lighter meal or healthy snack at least two to three hours prior to sleep.
5. Engage in exercise
Engaging in regular physical activity can have a positive impact on sleep quality. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. Not only does physical activity help reduce stress and anxiety and tires out our muscles, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Getting quality sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. Without it, you’re at risk for a range of health issues. While summer can present sleep challenges, following these tips, such as maintaining a sleep routine, keeping your room cool, and practicing good sleep hygiene, can help promote quality sleep. If you’ve tried these strategies and are still struggling to sleep well, we recommend consulting with your healthcare provider.
- NHLBI: What are sleep deprivation and deficiency? Online: nhlbi.gov
- NCBI: The sleep-deprived human brain. Online: ncbi.gov
- Sleep Health: Sleep health in America in 2023. Online: sleephealth.org
- NCBI: Jet lag. Online: ncbi.gov
- National Sleep Foundation: The best temperature for sleep. Online: