Everyone’s experienced hampered sleep in the summer because of hot nights and long daylight hours. This is no surprise because both temperature and light are responsible for synchronising our body’s circadian rhythm, an internal clock that governs your patterns of sleep. Under normal conditions, your body temperature cools in the early stages of sleep. However, hot weather prevents our body from dissipating heat and consequently sleep fragmentation (waking up during the night) is 3-times more likely to occur.
As well as our circadian rhythm, “sleep-wake homeostasis” is another mechanism that regulates our sleep. For every hour you are awake, the drive to sleep becomes stronger. This is caused by the changing levels of two hormones in your brain throughout the day: melatonin increases whilst cortisol decreases. Darkness also triggers melatonin release, which becomes a problem in the summer when daylight hours become much longer, making it much harder to drift off. Other factors like stress and certain drugs can also affect our sleep.
Over time these bad nights of sleep can add up and seriously affect our lives. It can impair cognitive and immune function, lead to depression or anxiety and has even been associated with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Fortunately, there are some simple, although sometimes overlooked steps that we can take to help us sleep better during summer nights.
Make Your Bedroom A More Peaceful Place
Keeping your bedroom tidy and removing any potential distractions is essential for your body to begin to relax. Endless work documents, computer, and even a treadmill are all examples of your responsibilities that can cause stress and distract you while you are trying to sleep. Try to keep the decor to a minimum and make your room clutter-free and relaxing zone, rather than correlate the room with busy work.
Bright light, noise, and heat are one of the most common sleep thieves. Therefore, it is essential to create a dark, cool, and quiet environment. Using a fan or an air conditioning unit are obvious ways to cool your bedroom during hot summer nights. Although fans can create significant noise, this can be easily overcome by wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Additionally, wearing an eye mask or using blackout curtains are great solutions to block out the sunlight. It’s also recommended to start dimming bedroom lights roughly 1-hour before sleep to help boost melatonin secretion.
Stick To Consistent Sleep Patterns
Although this tends to change with age, it’s recommended to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night whilst going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Similarly to when your body gets hungry around certain times of the day, like 12 pm if that when you tend to eat lunch, your body will get used to sleeping at specific times. This will make it much easier to drift off to sleep.
Ideally, you should maintain the same sleep schedule every night so your body can identify its internal clock and set a regular sleep-wake cycle. Since most people don’t prioritise consistent regimen, this can throw off the body’s natural rhythm. If you continually change the time you prefer to fall asleep and wake up, your body won’t be able to settle into a schedule.
Avoid Blue Light
We are all guilty of scrolling through the feed of Instagram until the last minute we decide it’s time to go to bed. But blue light from our phones, laptops and iPads prevents the release of melatonin in the brain thereby increasing alertness, the very opposite of what should be happening right before we go to sleep. What’s even worse is checking work emails before bed, as this increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making a perfect recipe for sleep disaster.
Some alternatives to relaxing routine before bed without being exposed to the bright light of your gadgets include reading, meditation practice, yoga, breathing exercises, or traditional remedy of counting sheep – though maybe a little boring!
Try Out CBD Oil
CBD oil, also called cannabidiol, is a natural and legal supplement derived from the Cannabis plant that doesn’t contain the addictive psychoactive compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is thought to interact with the cell-signalling endocannabinoid system responsible for crucial processes of an organism such as memory, pain, mood, inflammation, sleep, stress, concentration, and many others. Intake of CBD can help to ensure all body function are in balance, which in turn lead to reduced anxiety, pain relief, increased energy, improved mood and focus, more restful sleep, among other positive effects.
By placing a few drops of CBD oil drops under your tongue for 30 seconds before swallowing, it helps reduce stress and anxiety as well as acting as a mild sedative. Alternatively, it can be added to food or drink before bed; for example, chamomile tea is a great option as it’s also a well-known sleep inducer.
You can also choose between various ready-made infused products to experience CBD benefits such as edibles like gummies or chocolate, drinks like tea or water, topicals like cream, lotion, or balm, and vapes like a vape pen or e-liquid for your vape kit. However, be sure that you are choosing a reputable distributor and check whether the product you are using contains only safe components and 0% of THC by checking lab reports.
Take A Warm Shower Or Bath
Taking a bath is not only one of the pleasant and most satisfying methods to unwind, but it can also contribute to improved blood flow and circulation, better sleep, and muscle pain relief.
Studies have shown that a warm bath or shower before bed increases sleepiness as well as promoting deeper more restful sleep. You can even combine long soak in bath tube with a sparkle bath bomb or essential oil. Bath bombs are typically infused with fragrant oils to provide double benefits to your skin by calming and moisturising it. Simply place a bath bomb or add a few drops of relaxing oil like lavender essential oil to your bath to soothe body and mind. We also recommend lighting some scented candles or bringing a book to make the experience extra relaxing.
Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine & Alcohol Before Bed
All 3 of these drugs will impair your sleep. Although they work by different mechanisms, both caffeine and nicotine are considered stimulants. They affect the release of neurotransmitters in your brain, which in turn affect your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis. Not only will it be harder to get to sleep, and it will also be more fragmented. People who regularly consume caffeine or nicotine may experience less of an affect. Nevertheless, it’s best to avoid these within 4 hours before bed to ensure their effect has worn off. It’s a slightly different story with alcohol… After an evening down at the pub, many people find they go to sleep really quick! This is because alcohol reduces sleep latency (the time for us to fall asleep), but once it has been metabolised by the body a “rebound effect” occurs resulting in sleep disruption later in the night. Try switching to non-alcoholic alternatives instead.
Exercise Regularly (But Not Before Bed)
The benefits of exercise are seemingly endless, and this doesn’t stop at sleep either. Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, it’s likely the endorphins that are secreted during exercise curb depression and anxiety, helping you fall asleep faster. Exercising outside in the daylight also helps synchronise your body’s circadian rhythm. Additionally, the fall in body temperature and heart rate at the end of exercise imitates the early stages of sleep, making you feel more drowsy. Although it’s better to do so in the morning or early afternoon as exercise delays melatonin release. But if you don’t have time during the day – it’s better late than never.
It may be challenging to incorporate all these solutions at once, so you can make it more manageable by trying one or two of these methods at a time. Or experiment with possible ways to find more suitable yet effective for you. Like they say it takes 21-days to form a new habit. So don’t give up and before you know it you’ll be sleeping like a baby for good! Are there any more ideas you can think of to add to your bed-time routine to help you sleep better during the summer nights?