Summer Solstice: How Longer Daylight Hours Affect Sleep
Many of us will be enjoying the longer, warmer days now that summer is well and truly upon us.
The flipside of the longer daylight hours is that many also struggle to settle children at bedtime, find it difficult to doze off during lighter evenings or are woken way too early by sunlight streaming through the bedroom windows.
As we approach the Summer Solstice on Thursday 21 June - the longest day of the year and the shortest for hours of darkness - premium mattress brand, TEMPUR, is on hand to provide tips for getting a decent night's rest despite the lighter evenings and mornings.
Light and the “body clock”
Light is one of the most important external factors that affects sleep. It can change the body's physiological state, encouraging alertness and energy rather than relaxation when we're trying to drift off.
Disrupting the body's internal “body clock” in this way alters the sleep-wake cycle, interfering with both quality and quantity of sleep by causing frequent or prolonged wakefulness or even sleep deprivation which can be a potential cause of sleepwalking.
The problem with lighter mornings and evenings
Disrupted sleep causes similar effects as jet lag or shift work; increased tiredness and lethargy, poor concentration, increased irritability and mood swings...
At the more extreme end, a disrupted body clock can lead to slower response time, compromised well-being, or even depression. In short, poor sleep can make us ill.
Body clocks are inherently biological, meaning they cannot be changed easily or quickly. People are generally divided into night owls (those who go to bed later and rise later) or early birds (going to bed earlier and waking earlier). There are ways, however, to manage the natural cycle and ensure sleep is of the highest possible quality.
TEMPUR tips for ensuring quality sleep when it's light
- The optimal sleep environment should mimic a cave: dark, quiet, cool and comfortable.
- Curtains and blinds keep outside light from disturbing your sleep. Make sure window coverings are heavy enough to fully block light and are well fitted to avoid slivers of a streetlight or early morning sunlight from filtering in. Blackout curtains are designed to provide this kind of thorough protection against unwanted light. If you have blinds, combine with curtains to avoid light getting in around the edges.
- Stick to a routine, as the body needs time to prepare for sleep. It can be tempting to stay awake later as daylight hours lengthen, but the brain thrives on routine, so stick to bedtimes for children and use a sleep routine that includes a gradually darkening environment.
- Dim the lights a full hour before bedtime to encourage your body to begin its physiological progression toward sleep. Use a dimmer switch on overhead lights to control their brightness, or install low-watt, dimmable bulbs in lamps.
- Avoid screen time the hour before bed: turn off the television, power down computers and tablets, and put your phone away for the night. The light from digital devices contains high concentrations of blue light, a wavelength of light that research has shown is especially detrimental to sleep.
- Turn on 'sleep mode', switch off devices entirely or remove them from the room if possible. Try using a traditional alarm clock in place of a phone alarm.
- Keep doors closed to prevent chinks of light entering from the hallway or other rooms, and if necessary, use nightlights with a red bulb for low-level light.
- An eye mask worn at night can help deepen darkness and protect against intrusive light. Choose a mask that is soft, comfortable, and flexible. Wearing an eye mask can take a little getting used to, but it is a highly effective tool for limiting your light exposure at night.
- The bedroom décor can be important too. Choose dark bedroom wall paint or paper as these won't reflect the light.
“There's no denying that the longer days can cause problems when it comes to sleep routines, so creating a dark environment is crucial to ensure the best possible rest,” says Tobin Jones, TEMPUR UK Managing Director. “Blocking light can significantly improve quality of sleep, especially important for those with small children, so it's important to adapt and prepare bedrooms and other rooms accordingly.”
“Sleep is crucial for repair and regrowth, it is the body's time to rest and refuel and is imperative for our physical and mental well-being,” says Chris O'Sullivan, a sleep expert at the Mental Health Foundation. “Improving our sleep by minimising our exposure to light is a simple way to ensure we're well rested and can focus on work, our relationships, and interests.”
For more information on Tempur, visit www.tempur.com