Like the seasons, our bodies are constantly adapting and changing. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere (especially the extreme north), the reduction in darkness during summer can have a huge impact on our bodies, especially our ability to get enough rest.
Our circadian rhythms are our innate systems that govern our body clocks. Throughout the day, they release hormones, specifically melatonin, the hormone that dictates the time we fall asleep and wake up. The production of this helpful hormone is easily affected by light the brain receives from light receptor cells in our eyes.
Spending time outside has a positive impact on the production of melatonin, but our current cultural screen obsession can impair this, and when coupled with the increase in daylight at this time of year, wreak havoc on our patterns of sleep.
A Bedtime Routine for the Summer Months
Here are a few techniques you can try to help you sleep more peacefully during the summer months:
Even though the weather is warmer, take regular baths and add magnesium salts. Not only do the salts help you drift off, they’re great at replenishing any salts you have lost through sweat during the day. The trick is to have the water tepid which will help your body cool down: a vital part of the falling asleep process.
The temperature of your room is crucial, yet also difficult to control in full summer. The ideal temp for sleep is around 16 – 19 degrees C, but this is subjective and something you’ll need to experiment with. However, the body requires a temperature drop to drift off more easily. In the summer, try keeping bedrooms cooler by shutting blinds and curtains and keeping windows closed during the day.
Consider meditating before bed to help activate additional melatonin. Studies have shown that just a short session of focusing on your breath can have a positive impact on the time taken to fall asleep, as well as improving the quality of your sleep.
Make sure you aren’t hungry at bedtime, since low blood sugar can prompt a period of alertness in the early hours of the morning. As your blood sugar drops too low, your body can be fooled into waking to bring them back into balance. Equally, remember that eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime can impair the quality of your sleep so aim to eat dinner no later than 2 hours before bed followed by a light snack if you feel hungry nearer bedtime.
Try to exercise (but not too close to bedtime) and look after your stress levels. The stress hormone cortisol plays havoc with our overall hormonal system and can contribute to disruptive bouts of insomnia. Bedtime yoga, simple stretches, a chat with a loved one (including a pet!), and journaling can all help activate your para-sympathetic nervous system, allowing you to feel safe, calm and ready for a peaceful rest.
Remember that caffeine can affect your sleep. If you’re struggling nocturnally, try having your last cup of tea or coffee no later than 4pm. Even a cup of herbal tea too close to bedtime can cause you to wake to go to the bathroom in the night, so experiment with what works.
If you must have them in the bedroom, aim to keep phones switched off or on airplane mode. Our phones act as small transmitters, so it’s best to keep them away from the head and body when our brain waves are in sleep mode.
Finally, why not wash your feet and give them a quick massage before bed? This five minute foot massage stimulates the acupuncture points in the foot and heel that can aid in getting a good night’s slumber.
Love the SOL team xx