Longer days, warm weather, and outdoor activities are just some of the things that make summer a joyful time of year. It’s something lots of us look forward to during the chilly winter months.
However, it’s not all sunshine and clear skies. For many people, falling asleep and staying asleep are constant battles during the hot summer months.
In this article, we’ll explore why hot weather makes it harder to sleep. We’ll also provide you with expert tips for staying well rested through the summer months.
Is it a struggle to stick to a regular bedtime during summer?
Do you find yourself tossing and turning on hot summer nights?
As humans, we operate on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm or sleep–wake cycle. When it starts getting dark outside, your brain releases a sleep hormone called melatonin, making you feel drowsy. However, in summer, longer daylight hours cause a shift in this rhythm.
Bright light delays the release of melatonin, signaling your body to stay awake and alert for longer. Plus, the summer sun rises early in the morning, which suppresses melatonin production and wakes you up.
Track your sleep quality with WeatherWell!
Download our free app to understand how weather affects your sleep and mood
Another reason for sleep loss in summer is the increase in ambient temperature and humidity. Your body temperature plays a role in maintaining a healthy sleep–wake cycle. In the evening, your core body and brain temperature naturally drop, which triggers you to drift off to dreamland. You cool down even further during the night as you enter deeper stages of sleep. Unfortunately, hot summer nights interrupt this natural process and increase sleep latency — the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Heat also disrupts sleep efficiency — the overall time you spend in bed versus the time you spend sleeping.
Another factor to consider is that you’re probably more active in summer. Social gatherings on warm nights, late dinners, and busy summer vacations aren’t always conducive to good sleep.
Sleep is crucial for optimal health and well-being.
Babies and young children need a lot of sleep to keep up with their rapid growth and development. For adults, 7–9 hours of sleep per night is recommended. However, people over 65 may require slightly less. These are general recommendations based on research, but keep in mind that everyone is different. Your sleep needs also change according to the seasons.
So, how much deep sleep do you need in summer?
In summer, the warm weather and sunshine can boost your mood and energy levels, helping you to operate on less sleep. So, the quality of your sleep may be more significant than the quantity.
During the night, your body cycles through different stages of sleep. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep is crucial for cellular rest and repair. During this stage, your heart rate and breathing slow down, muscles relax, and your body temperature drops to its lowest during the night.
Chances are, you don’t get enough deep sleep in the summer as heat and humidity disturb NREM sleep. This can disrupt your productivity, exercise recovery, and mood.
It’s important to treat insomnia before it causes serious health consequences.
Here are some expert tips to help you get more sleep in the summer months. You’ll soon be sleeping like a pro.
Your brain and body thrive with consistency, especially when it comes to sleep. Maintaining a regular sleep–wake schedule — even on weekends and vacations — regulates your body clock and makes it easier to fall asleep.
Creating a wind-down routine before bed can improve sleep latency and sleep efficiency.
Here is an example of a soothing bedtime routine:
Always give yourself enough time to get 7–9 hours of sleep. This ensures you spend time in each stage of sleep and wake up feeling good.
A cool, dark, and quiet bedroom is crucial for sleep.
In the summertime, the late evening and early morning sunshine disrupt melatonin production.
Luckily, you can trick your brain into thinking it’s dark outside by using blackout curtains or wearing an eye mask at night.
Keep your room cool by drawing the curtains during the day. Before you go to bed, set your thermostat to 65–68 degrees Fahrenheit — the ideal temperature for sleep. If you don’t have an air conditioner, keep a fan in your room to create a gentle breeze and cool you down. You can also place a bowl of ice water at a safe distance in front of your fan to reduce the bedroom temperature quickly.
Bright blue light exposure in the evening from room lighting and digital devices disrupts sleep. But not all light is detrimental to sleep.
So, what color light helps you sleep?
Light exists on a spectrum. The warmer the light, the less stimulating it is and the better it is for sleep. Red-orange light rays, which are visible at sunset, are better for sleeping than bright blue light.
We suggest putting orange-colored light bulbs in your bedroom, living room, and bathroom to encourage melatonin production at night. Plus, when you wake up to use the bathroom at night, you won’t turn on a light that prevents you from falling back asleep.
What you sleep in and on can make all the difference to your sleep quality during summer.
Lightweight, breathable pajamas and bedding made from fabrics like cotton, wool, or bamboo are must-haves in summer.
They absorb moisture so you don’t wake up in a pool of sweat.
You can also create a cooler microclimate in bed by sleeping under a thin cotton blanket or sheet instead of a thick comforter or duvet.
Dehydration is one of the health risks associated with hot summer days and nights.
Keep a jug of ice water next to your bed to stay hydrated and cool yourself down from the inside. Taking a few sips when you wake up in the middle of the night may help you go back to sleep with more ease.
If your circadian rhythm has been affected by summer and you’re struggling to fall asleep, sleep meditation may help. Meditation is a science-backed practice that improves sleep by calming your nervous system and moving you into a relaxed state.
You can also enhance the experience by diffusing some calming essential oils to create a relaxing ambiance in your bedroom.
If you’re not a fan of guided meditation, listening to relaxing sleep music before bed may help you drift off. There are playlists on YouTube and Spotify that offer sleep music to suit your needs.
You can also incorporate some gentle breathing exercises to help you fall asleep faster.
We recommend the ”cooling breath” for summertime:
Do you ever wake up to turn your pillow and feel the cool fabric against your cheek?
If so, freezing your pillowcases before bed is a great sleep hack for summer nights.
Before you go to bed, put a few clean pillowcases in a bag and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour. Just before you go to bed, cover your pillows with the chilled pillowcases and let the cool fabric soothe you to sleep. You can do the same with your sheets if the heat feels unbearable.
By managing your sleep environment in summer, you can get better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. This means more energy to enjoy all that summer has to offer.
Plus, keeping cool in summer may help you avoid health risks like dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Take note: If you feel exhausted when you wake up despite making lifestyle changes, please speak to a health care professional. They may recommend a sleep study to check for a sleep disorder.