Summer hours can take a toll on your sleep cycle
Here comes the sun! That may be beneficial to seasonal fun, but not so good if you enjoy your Zzzs. In fact, the lengthening days to the summer solstice may be stealing your sleep time and lessening the quality of that sleep.
“Daylight is the greatest stimulant to our circadian rhythm. It suppresses melatonin – our sleep-inducing hormone – and stimulates serotonin and dopamine – the waking hormones,” says Dr. Muhammad Hamadeh, a pulmonary medicine specialist and medical director of the sleep center at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
Not only is daylight’s impact felt on the ability to fall asleep, but it stimulates the waking hormones even while you sleep – meaning you wake up earlier because the sun rises earlier.
Most affected are those who must go to bed early and wake early because of their jobs.
“Individuals who go to bed while it is still light outside may find it much more difficult to fall asleep during these longer days,” Dr. Hamadeh says.
A compounding summertime sleep factor is heat.
“Rising body temperature promotes alertness,” Dr. Hamadeh said. “That’s why people who sleep without air-conditioning have a greater difficulty falling asleep and less quality sleep. Their bodies often do not move through the full, four-stage cycle of sleep. They are just too warm throughout the night.”
Add to this summertime mixture the increased noise that comes with people remaining outdoors for longer periods of time, and you have a recipe for poor sleeping conditions.
As a solution, Dr. Hamadeh offers several tips:
- Invest in dark shades. Creating darkness in one’s sleeping environment can “trick the body” and put the circadian rhythm into more of a sleep mode.
- Turn on the air-conditioning or, at the very least, find as cool and comfortable a place as possible to sleep.
- No matter the season, follow your normal sleep-wake schedule. A regular schedule helps maintain a regular circadian rhythm.
- And, if noise is a problem in your neighborhood, buy a good set of ear plugs.
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