Summertime, and the Sleeping's Not Easy

Hot weather can disrupt normal sleep patterns. What you need to know to get the rest you need.

| 16 Aug 2019 | 11:18

A good night’s sleep is essential to rejuvenate your mind and body for the next day. But if you can’t fall asleep as easily in the summer, you’re not alone. Summertime insomnia is a real phenomenon. For most of us, trying to fall sleep and stay asleep when we’re hot and sticky is difficult.

Temperature plays a vital role in both falling asleep and staying asleep. A natural dip in our core body temperature helps get our bodies ready for sleep. Core body temperature dips in the evenings and reaches its nadir at 5 a.m. Our bodies rely on these mechanisms, so sleeping in an environment that is too warm may interfere with thermoregulation and can cause fragmented sleep.

Many experts report that the ideal room temperatures for sleeping is between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have air conditioning or are lucky enough to have central air, try and target this temperature. This should be first on your summer sleep checklist, but even if you don’t have air conditioning, there is more you can do to stay cool at night.

Sleep vs. Heat Strategies

· Use blinds to keep out the sun during the day.

· Turn off unnecessary lights to keep your apartment cooler.

· At night, put a bowl of ice cubes in front of a fan so that the cold condensation helps lower the ambient temperature, and keep your bedroom door open to help circulate air.

· Keep hydrated and drink cold water before bed.

· Although it may be counterintuitive, taking a hot shower before bed may help keep you cool.

· Bring an ice pack into your bed to help keep your body cool.

· Because summer days are longer, black-out shades will help you keep the sunlight out in the morning.

Remember the Basics

There are some basic sleep strategies to help you create healthy sleep routines, no matter what the weather.

· Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Create a bedtime routine to help your body know what to expect so that you can fall asleep more easily.

· Get as much bright light exposure as possible during the day but then avoid bright lights at night.

· Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating, so try to do it in the morning if possible.

· Avoid all blue light devices (television, iPad, iPhone, etc.) within two hours of bedtime. Blue light will affect your brain’s natural release of melatonin that is essential in helping you fall asleep.

· Speak to your doctor about whether any of your medications are stimulating and should be taken in the morning.

· Avoid caffeine within 8 hours of your bedtime.

· Avoid alcohol within 4-6 hours of sleep.

· Avoid daytime naps, as sleeping any time before your actual bedtime will interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.

· Don’t watch the clock! That can make it more difficult to fall asleep. You can set an alarm on your phone or device, but you might want to try and keep clocks out of your bedroom.

Keep in mind that everyone is different, so while these are general recommendations you need to figure out what works best for you. And if your summer sleeping problem becomes chronic and continues even as Autumn approaches and the temperature begins to cool down, make sure to speak with a sleep specialist.

Shilpi Ahuja, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and practices at Mount Sinai-National Jewish Respiratory Institute at Mount Sinai-Union Square.