Summer is the season to enjoy some rest and relaxation and recharge the batteries. However, for many of us, summer sleep is in short supply. With children out of school, extended hours of sunshine and steamy temperatures, getting sufficient restorative sleep can be a real challenge. In fact, all that fun in the sun can lead to a serious case of sleep deprivation.
Most of us have heard of the “summer slide,” when students tend to lose math and reading skills over the summer vacation. However, academic learning isn’t the only thing that tends to slide during the warm weather months. There is also often a summer sleep slide that not only impacts children, but also plenty of adults.
Fortunately, getting a restful night of sleep throughout the summer is doable, and you can even ensure that the rest of your family doesn’t fall into a negative summer sleep slide. The key is taking a few preventive measures to side step any potential summer sleep problems before they begin.
Maintain A Consistent Bedtime Routine
Summer vacations and the freedom from the weekday school routine can lead to later bedtimes and disrupted sleep schedules for everyone in the family. This can be a very real problem that over time results in sleep deprivation. It’s important to balance the freedom of summer break with a family’s sleep needs.
Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night, and school age kids require 10½ to 12 hours. Most adults need seven to nine hours. Ideally, keep bedtimes consistent over the summer to keep internal clocks in check.
“It’s important to maintain the same going-to-bed and wake-up times,” said Dr. Preethi Rajan of Northwell Health’s division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. “Going to bed late and sleeping in can affect the natural rhythm of our sleep. Children get hyperactive and lose their ability to pay attention when their regular schedule is disrupted. Adults can feel groggy and tired through the day.”
Darken Your Bedroom
After a long, dark winter, summertime sunshine is a welcome change, but it’s not so great when it impacts sleep. Living in a region where it’s still light outside during the evening hours can make it more difficult to fall asleep. To avoid a sleep problem, keep your bedroom dark at night with light-blocking curtains or blinds, as well as maintain consistency in your sleep routine. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, don’t be tempted to grab for an electronic device to lull yourself into dreamland. Digital technology impacts cognitive stimulation and can rev up the brain, which is the opposite of what should be happening before sleep. The bedroom should be an electronic-free zone, and ideally, there should be 15 to 30 minutes of technology-free time before heading to bed.
Keep It Cool
With summer sun comes higher temperatures. A bedroom that is too warm can keep you awake at night. Falling asleep and staying asleep requires the body to lower its internal temperature. This can be more difficult if your bedroom’s temperature is not optimal. A few suggestions to keep it cool include:
• Keep windows tightly closed if the temperature outside is hotter than indoors
• Use a fan to circulate cool air
• Wear light bed clothing
• Take a cool shower or bath before getting into bed
• Don’t exercise within several hours of your regular bedtime
Could It Be A Sleep Disorder?
Although there are temporary sleep problems that are more likely to occur during the summer, they may also indicate a larger sleep disorder. If you frequently experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your physician.
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Daytime fatigue
• Strong urge to take naps during the day
• Lack of concentration
Want to learn more about overcoming sleep problems? Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a health specialist.
—Submitted by Northwell Health