We discussed the importance of sleep in our last blog about hunger fluctuations. When we don’t get enough sleep our bodies need more energy. This energy ends up coming from our food, which means we feel hungrier during the day. Many people struggle to get enough sleep during this time of year due to a couple different factors. If you have trouble falling asleep during the summer months, you’re not alone. When it’s hot in your bedroom, it can be difficult to fall asleep. “Studies have shown that up to a quarter of people might experience some sort of sleeping difficulty during the summer months,” says neurologist and sleep expert Pradeep Bollu, MD, with University of Missouri Health Care. Plus, when the sun stays out later, it can delay the melatonin release in your body, which helps signal that it’s time to feel tired before bedtime. So, your body is getting mixed signals; you may actually feel tired if you woke up early and had a busy day, yet your body is not getting that crucial melatonin signal to wind down for the night. Darkness cues your body that it’s almost time to go to sleep.
If you think you’re prone to summertime insomnia, try these ideas:
1. Wear blue-light glasses
Daylight exposes you to stimulating blue light. Late sunsets mean that you may not feel tired when you’d normally get drowsy. But in this day and age, you’re likely to get as much blue light exposure from your phone, computer, or tablet which in turn interferes with sleep.
Wearing blue light glasses—yellow-tinted sunglasses or clear computer glasses—for at least an hour before bedtime helps to block out the blue part of the spectrum (blue suppresses melatonin release). This fools the body into believing that it’s dark outside, encouraging it to produce sleep-promoting melatonin. “If someone is having sleeping difficulty during the summer months, I would recommend trying this strategy to lessen the blue light exposure,” Bollu says. If you work a desk job where you are sitting at a computer for the majority of the day, these glasses are great! They help protect the eyes from the blue-light you would otherwise be exposed to all day long. There are many different brands that sell blue-light glasses including Warby Parker. If you’re looking for a cheap pair to try out, check out Amazon – they have pairs for as little as $10.
2. Take a hot shower in the evening
This sounds counter intuitive on summer nights, but showering is relaxing, and afterwards, your body temperature drops, signaling that it’s bedtime. “We know that falling core body temperature is associated with rises in melatonin levels in the body,” Bollu says, “so it may be reasonable to assume that hot showers might promote melatonin secretion.” To encourage your body temperature to drop even more, try cooling down the air in your bedroom with a fan or AC unit. “The bedroom should be a couple of degrees cooler than how you normally have it,” Howell says.
3. Limit nighttime calories
On summer nights, you be craving ice cream after dinner, but eating or drinking too close to bedtime can focus your body on digestion rather than sleeping. Food is a cue to your body of what time it is. If you have a consistent meal time of dinner at 6pm and one night you go out and have ice cream at 8pm, this can signal to your body that it’s not time to shut down yet.
Alcohol can also worsen insomnia or awaken you in the night. “People imagine alcohol helps them sleep because it’s sedating. Ultimately, it’s exactly the opposite of that, because even if you drink in moderation—a glass of wine, a cocktail, even if you have just 1 or 2 drinks—your liver metabolizes that alcohol, and in a couple of hours, you are not sedated, you are actually activated,” Howell points out.
If you can, avoid eating and drinking alcohol for two hours before bed. On nights when you can’t resist dessert or drinks, realize that you may have trouble falling asleep.
4. Create a consistent schedule
Establishing a morning routine can ease evening summertime insomnia. Awaken at the same time daily—weekends and holidays, too—and expose yourself to sunshine early. There is evidence that suggests sunlight in the morning is helpful for maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Make sure you are getting a proper nights sleep to keep you & your fitness goals on track!