Shortly I’ll be on a plane to Wichita, Kansas, for my high school reunion. Every time I step foot on Kansas soil a flood of great memories returns: Friday night football games, Knolla’s Pizza, midnight movies, parties, Bionic Burger, the River Festival, Galaga, and, especially around this time of year, the all-important beginning of summer.
Where I grew up, summer was all about crowded public swimming pools, Dairy Queen Hot Fudge Brownie Delights, baseball, mowing a huge yard all day every Saturday, hay fever, washing dishes at a restaurant by day, dragging Douglas by night, and listening to the Police and Marillion in my little green 2002. It was also about hanging out with my friends, and to be perfectly honest I often didn’t sleep as much as I should have. What did I know? Sleep deprivation and sleeping in were pretty common during the sweltering, humid summer months of my teenage years.
Sleep often suffers in the summertime. So before I depart I will leave you with some quick, easy tips to make your sleep easier, better, and more enjoyable during these hot summer months.
1. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Insulate your room and windows from noise and light to the extent that you can. It’s a tough time for many of us financially, but if you are unable to sleep because the room is hot, use your air conditioning; sleeping well is worth the money spent on utilities. If you can’t fix your hot, light, loud bedroom, try sleeping in the basement.
2. Strive to keep your sleep schedules regular. School’s out; loved ones are visiting; the neighborhood BBQ is in full swing; you’re off on a family vacation. There is always the temptation to party late, sleep in, and not set your alarm clock during the summer. Your body clock doesn’t care about any of that, however. A common cause of insomnia and daytime sleepiness is dysregulation of sleep schedules. Continue to awaken around the same time every morning (if you don’t have to awaken at any one specific time, you would do well to choose a preferred awakening time and stick with it), including on weekends and non-work days.
3. Mind your late-night alcohol. Alcohol has sedative effects for the first couple hours after you ingest it. However, after several hours it tends to be a sleep disrupter.
4. If you’re a night shift worker, get thick black curtains for your bedroom windows and wear dark sunglasses on your way home from work in the early morning. Remember: it’s light out early in the morning and late in the evening when it’s summertime, so your brain can be tricked into making you feel more awake and alert if there is bright light exposure around the time that you should be sleeping.
5. Avoid late-night exercise. The release of stimulatory hormones when you exercise hard can last for several hours, causing insomnia. I recommend that you stop heavy aerobic activity 2-3 hours prior to your projected bedtime.
6. Take care of yourself. Don’t sacrifice your health for all that summertime fun. Obviously, anything that causes physical discomfort can be a detriment to your sleep. Avoid sunburns and dehydration. Use nasal sprays or see your doctor for those seasonal allergies. Minimize hangovers. Don’t overextend yourself. And, as I will probably see firsthand this weekend, it’s best to remember you’re not in your 20’s when you’re, uh, no longer in your 20’s, just ’cause it’s summer.
Utilize these simple suggestions and chances are you likely you’ll be able to avoid a . . .