How to Sleep Better in the Summer

Fact-Checked

Summertime sparks positive feelings in many people, due to more sunshine, warmer days, and potential vacation plans (1). In fact, 25% of Americans name summer their favorite season (2).

However, the heat and humidity, increased daylight hours, travel plans, and more active social lives impact circadian rhythms and sleep schedules. As a result, many people have trouble sleeping.

We’ll highlight how to make the most of your summer without sacrificing important sleep through these tips on how to sleep better in summer.

Stay Cool at Night

Staying cool at night is a must, especially during the warmer summer months. When the air temperature is too warm, slow-wave and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages are negatively affected (3). People also awaken more easily and, as a result, experience more sleep disruptions when sleeping in a space that is too hot.

The ideal room temperature for sleep (4) is somewhat lower than what most people consider an ideal room temperature during the day. In many places, outdoor temperatures are also higher than the recommended range for sleep during the summer months. However, there are many ways people can stay cool while they sleep.

Cool Down the Bedroom

If you have air conditioning, it can be highly beneficial in the summertime. Even if you prefer keeping the AC off during the day, consider turning it on at night for the sake of your sleep quality. Researchers recommend keeping the nighttime bedroom temperature between 66 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep, so a temperature within this range is likely also the best AC temperature for sleeping in summer.

You can also cool down the bedroom at night with a fan. A ceiling fan set to operate counterclockwise can help with air circulation in the summer. You can also place two fans in the window at night: one to push hot air out of the room, and one to bring cooler air in.

You might also consider running a dehumidifier if you live in a particularly humid climate. Humid heat negatively impacts sleep even more than dry heat does.

Opt for Cooler Bedding

The bedding you sleep with also affects how your body reacts to the room temperature. You can strategically choose bedding that will keep you cool during hot summer nights.

Bedding made from different types of fabric affects your bed's microclimate (5) differently. Your bed's microclimate is the temperature of just your bed and the area directly around it. This microclimate is impacted by the room temperature, your body temperature, your mattress, your bedding, and your sleepwear.

Fabrics made of wool and cotton are less likely to trap heat than polyester. To stay cool during the summer:

  • Consider swapping out fleece or other polyester blend sheets and blankets for those made of 100% cotton.
  • If your mattress tends to trap heat or make you sweat, consider a wool mattress pad for better temperature regulation.
  • Choose thinner, lighter blankets and comforters over thicker, heavier options.

Wear Cool, Lightweight Pajamas

Like bedding, sleepwear contributes to your bed's microclimate, influencing how warm or cool you feel throughout the night. As a result, the sleepwear you choose directly impacts how well you sleep. Becoming too hot or sweating during the night (6) negatively affects sleep quality.

The same fabrics that promote cooling in bedding also work well for pajamas. Opt for lightweight, 100% cotton or cotton-blend pajamas during the summer months. Save thicker, heavier sleepwear and those that contain more polyester for winter. Choosing lightweight sleepwear helps you stay at the right temperature for sleep all night long.

Shower Before Bed

People feeling warm at night time might wonder if they should take a cold shower before bed. More research is needed, but if you're feeling too hot to sleep, taking a cold shower is worth a try to see if it works for you.

Research shows that taking a cold shower reduces body temperature after exercise (7), demonstrating that showering can cool you down. Cold showers can also reduce pain (8) and decrease depression symptoms (9). If pain or depression are interfering with your sleep, a cold shower may help.

Perhaps surprisingly, a warm shower (10) might also help you sleep. Although a warm shower may initially raise your body temperature (11), it could reduce your core body temperature during the night. A warm shower increases circulation in your hands and feet, which improves your body's ability to regulate temperature. People who take a warm shower in the hour or two before bed tend to fall asleep faster and experience higher quality sleep.

Be Intentional About Sunlight Exposure

Our circadian rhythm (12), or internal body clock, is heavily impacted by light exposure. Sunlight makes us more alert and suppresses the production of melatonin (13), a hormone that makes us sleepy. For this reason, being intentional about when you receive sunlight exposure can help you shape when you feel tired and want to sleep.

In the summer months, the Northern Hemisphere experiences extended hours of daylight. The summer solstice (14) is the longest day of the year, or the day with the most hours of sunlight. As a result, many people find that the sun begins shining earlier in the summer than they would like to wake up.

To keep sunlight from waking you up earlier than you'd like during summertime, consider investing in blackout curtains. Blackout curtains help block outside light. Alternatively, an eye mask can block out unwanted light exposure as the sun rises.

Maintain a Consistent Bedtime

If you or your children are usually in school but off for the summer, it’s still possible to keep a regular sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at around the same time every day helps you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

Shift workers who must regularly change their sleep and wake times are the subject of much research. Their variable sleep schedule negatively impacts the circadian rhythm, leading to sleep deprivation (15). Shift work studies show that an inconsistent sleep schedule can increase a person's risk of various health problems, ranging from cancer to mental health issues. This makes it all the more important to maintain consistent bed and wake times, even when external circumstances don't require it.

Enjoy Summer Feeling Alert and Well-Rested

By following these tips, you can avoid the fatigue (16) associated with sleep disturbances and enjoy summer more fully. When you're well rested, you have more energy to do what you enjoy.

References

+ 16 Sources
  1. 1. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://news.gallup.com/poll/6112/majority-americans-plan-vacation-summer.aspx
  2. 2. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://news.gallup.com/poll/16939/most-popular-season-coming-end.aspx
  3. 3. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22738673/
  4. 4. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31105512/
  5. 5. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27217803/
  6. 6. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30509635/
  7. 7. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30676813/
  8. 8. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27575584/
  9. 9. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17993252/
  10. 10. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31102877/
  11. 11. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28691581/
  12. 12. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30137792/
  13. 13. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29318587/
  14. 14. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://www.weather.gov/abq/clifeatures_summersolstice
  15. 15. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26563802/
  16. 16. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25682254/

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