What you will discover in this article
- Why is it so hard to get a good night’s sleep in the summertime?
- What can I do to sleep better this summer?
Ah, summer nights – we wait all year to enjoy warm evenings outdoors, relaxed school and work schedules, big BBQ get-togethers, and time spent in and on the water. But the summer heat and increased activity makes it harder to sleep peacefully, and can worsen symptoms for sleep apnea sufferers. Get a good night’s sleep every night this summer with these top tips that will have you waking up rested and brimming with energy to make the most of everything the season has to offer.
Why is it so hard to get a good night’s sleep in the summertime?
Elevated temperatures and humidity
Summer nights can be hot and steamy – and during heat waves in particular, it can be very difficult to find to get comfortable to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature range for sleep is between 12°C and 24°C, and if temperatures vary outside that range, sleep can be disturbed. Add in a few extra degrees for the humidity, and it’s common for evening temperatures in the summer to be well above this range.
Longer days and more sunlight
The farther away we live from the equator, the more the summer season lengthens our days. In much of Canada, the sun doesn’t set until well into the evening, and is up long before we want to be. Early light can wake us up and make it difficult to fall back asleep, robbing us of precious hours of rest.
More time spent outdoors
While fresh air can actually help improve sleep, increased time spent outside can also heighten our exposure to allergens, which can lead to nasal congestion that makes it harder to breathe when sleeping and can worsen symptoms for sleep apnea sufferers. Click here to read more about seasonal allergies and sleep apnea.
Travel across time zones can cause jet lag, which upsets our regular circadian rhythms and can leave us wide awake in the middle of the night and sleepy during the day. In addition, sleep apnea sufferers who require equipment to help them sleep can forget to bring what they need on vacation, or find themselves in a situation where it is difficult to use the equipment, such as on a camping trip. Not using this equipment, even for one night, can have drastic effects on the quality of sleep.
What can I do to sleep better this summer?
Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep every night this summer:
6 tips to improve sleep during summertime
- Stick to a routine as much as possible. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, including on weekends. Because digestion can cause discomfort in the heat, avoid eating and drinking for one to two hours before bedtime, and if drinking alcohol, have your last drink at least three hours before going to bed. Caffeine is also known to disrupt sleep, so avoid it after midday.
- Embrace the darkness. Make sure your room is dark at nighttime by drawing the curtains or blinds and limiting ambient light from lamps and screens. If sunlight streams into your window before you are ready to rise, look into blackout curtains or sleep with an eye mask.
- Turn down the noise. While it’s tempting to sleep with the windows open on summer nights, there’s nothing like the noisy chirping of birds at dawn or the roar of a lawn mower to wake us up earlier than we’d like to rise. If that is the case for you, close the windows or wear earplugs. If noise is an issue when you are falling asleep, you may want to look into a white noise machine or use a fan (see #4 below).
- Create a comfortable environment for sleep. Make sure the room temperature is comfortable, and switch out your regular duvet for something lighter. If you sleep with a partner, you may both be more comfortable with your own light quilt or coverlet. If your pillow gets overheated, consider one made of buckwheat, which does not trap heat. To keep temperatures cool, use air conditioning if possible, or perhaps a fan, which has the added benefit of providing a soothing ambient noise.
- Have a heat-wave game plan.When the temperature and humidity spike, a cool shower or swim before bed can help cool the body before slipping between the sheets. If it’s really hot, consider slipping ice packs between your sheets a few hours before bed, and take them out when you turn in. Remember that most body heat escapes via the head, hands, and feet, so make sure those body parts are left exposed. And drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, but ease up one to two hours before bed, so that you won’t wake up during the night to use the bathroom.
- When traveling, plan ahead for good sleep. Make a checklist to be sure to pack any equipment you may need for sleep apnea, and carry supplies that can help improve sleep on the plane with you, including earplugs, a sleep mask, and a travel pillow. Upon arrival, do what you can to make your sleeping environment as comfortable, dark, and cool as possible. To mitigate the effects of jet lag, adopt the schedule of your new time zone immediately, and make every effort to be outside in the morning sun at the time you would now like to wake up. This will help reset your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
At Apnée Santé, we can help
If you still find that despite this tips you are unable to get a good night’s sleep, there may be more than the summer heat, humidity and long hours of sunlight to blame. If you are not sleeping well and waking up exhausted, contact one of our sleep specialists today to set up a sleep test. Summer is too short not to be enjoyed to the fullest, and we can help you get your sleep back on track so that you will have the energy you need to get outside, have fun, and make the most of the beautiful weather.