Why is a summer sleep ritual any different to any other season’s sleep ritual? In summer, the sun is up earlier in the morning and sets later at night. This means our bodies produce less melatonin (this is the hormone produced by the body to make us sleepy when it gets dark). In turn, we get less sleep - but actually, we need the same amount of sleep as we would any other time of year.
Circadian rhythms are innate, biological clocks that govern many functions in our body, including the release of certain hormones and the timing of when we wake up and when we get sleepy. If you are a good sleeper, your circadian rhythm kicks in and alerts the core body temperature to slightly drop. As the night continues, your core temperature will drop slightly again until approximately two hours before routine morning awakening.
While the longer days can mean more play and generally lift people’s spirits, it can bring issues that wreak havoc with your sleep. Light affects our hormones, in particular, our melatonin production. When the sun goes down and it gets darker, our melatonin level rises, we feel tired, and it’s the signal for the brain – it’s time to sleep! So as the day lengthens, our circadian rhythm is delayed. Creating a healthy sleeping ritual during this time is very important.
Here are some things to consider to create your ultimate summer sleep ritual:
- If you are waking early because it is lighter earlier, consider installing blockout curtains or blinds (if you don’t have them already) and going to bed earlier to make sure you are still getting adequate sleep each night.
- In summer we naturally feel more active, embrace the extra daylight hours and incorporate a new summer exercise routine. For example: an early morning or evening walk, joining a swimming squad or yoga in the park to really connect with nature. It is a great idea to vary our exercise depending on the season and really tune into the natural seasonal rhythms. Our bodies and minds respond well to the changes!
- If you enjoy a herbal tea in the cooler months, consider making a jug of your herbal tea to serve iced. The herbs will still work their magic, helping to calm the nervous system and prepare you for a restful sleep.
- Cut down on screen time – the second major disruptor to good sleep is our devices. Not only does they create light that can stop us from feeling sleepy, but it emits a particular blue wavelength of light which is the most stimulating part of sunlight to our brain for melatonin regulation. Spend less time this summer on your devices and reconnect with nature. Make a rule to not pick up a device after dinner and join your local library and start reading instead!
- Journaling. With all your extra time (because you are now no longer connected to your screens in the evening) start a gratitude journal and journal each night before bed. Studies have shown that the emotional release that comes from keeping a journal helps to lower anxiety and stress, and even helps you achieve a better night’s sleep. This is especially the case if you use your diary time to reflect on good things that happened in the day that you’re grateful for.
Consider these factors when you're building your dream summer sleep ritual, and enjoy a blissful summer with all the benefits of a well rested body and mind.