Super Summer Sleep Tips for a Great (Hot) Night’s Rest

When school’s out, temperatures are high and ice cream van anthems are playing on an endless loop, a new set of seasonally specific sleep considerations come into play. From escaping the heat to making time for time-off, here are five commandments to guide your summer of sleep.

1. Don’t let hot nights become sleepy days

Hot weather not only makes it hard to sleep it at night, it also leaves some people fatigued during the day. In one study, researchers surveyed participants about their fatigue levels in July, August and September. They found that hotter days corresponded to more fatigue — but only for participants with existing sleep problems. Good sleepers, on the other hand, maintained the same level of fatigue, regardless of the temperature.

And, across the board, research suggests that temperature and sleep quality have an inverse relationship — as temperatures rise, sleep quality dips. Experts recommend keeping your bedroom between 65 and 70 degrees. Obviously, cool sleep environments are harder to come by in the summer. But, even if you don’t have AC, there are plenty of ways to keep the sweats at bay. For instance, consider placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan for a DIY cooling system

2. Stay cool and keep your cool

In his 1942 novel The Stranger, Albert Camus shed light on the impact of heat on a person’s psychological state. And it seems like the French existentialist was onto something; there’s scientific evidence that temperature can influence how we feel and behave. Higher temperatures, in particular, have been associated with increased aggression. In a study involving professional American football players, warmer weather led to more violence, as measured by penalties committed during games.

3. Love the Light

The Summer Solstice (aka the official start of summer) takes place on June 21. And, even though nighttime fun can make it hard to hit the sack on time during the summer, the sweaty season is actually a good time to get your sleep back on track.

Light has an enormous impact on sleep. In one study, for example, office employees who were exposed to high levels of light in the morning fell asleep faster at night, as well as had more synchronized circadian rhythms and better sleep quality, than participants exposed to low levels of light. (The morning-light group also experienced reduced depression.)

4. FNE happens. Move on

Finally, it’s summer holiday time! Your hotel room seems primed for a great night’s rest: It’s quiet, dark, cool and equipped with the type of plush, expensive bedding you’d never buy yourself. But, for some reason, you have trouble falling, and staying, asleep when turn-down service is on the menu. At least you’re not the only one. In the sleep world, this strange phenomenon is called the “First Night Effect” (FNE).

You feel uneasy on night number-one because your body is trying to stay vigilant in an unfamiliar environment. Your brain is divided into two hemispheres: left and right. On the first night, the two hemispheres take turns staying “awake.” And this half-awake state is thought to be a protective mechanism that lets you detect any deviant noise and become alert at a moment’s notice. Although there’s not much we can do to avoid FNE, it can be comforting to know that researchers consider it a “typical sleep disturbance.”

5. Switch your status to OOO

Think of FNE as a hump to power through. Because, once you get over that initial night of rocky rest, being on holiday will most likely help you rest easy. Studies have shown that holidaying for two weeks comes with positive health outcomes, including reduced fatigue, better moods and higher-quality sleep. Researchers aren’t sure, however, if taking time off improves your mood, which leads to better sleep, or if being on vacation lets you get the sleep you need to exude positivity.

Does it matter what kind of holiday you take? For the sake of your sleep, it wouldn’t hurt to spend some time in the great outdoors. There’s evidence that real nature sounds are more relaxing than fake white noise. This is the case, researchers believe, because it takes less brain power to process natural environments than man-made ones.

So set your Slack status to “Out Of Office,” tell your boss you’ll be back in a fortnight and go find a babbling brook to fall asleep next to.


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