Recuperative sleep is just as vital to your overall health as regular exercise and a balanced, healthy diet. With summer comes longer days, no school, more activities, different daily routines and schedules. Together, all of these can really wreak havoc when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
No school means no getting up in the morning. If you have a teen, it is very tempting to allow them to sleep late into the morning, just as we did when we were teens. Some teens even sleep past noon.
Unfortunately, getting accustomed to this sleep schedule will cause terrible problems when school starts in the fall. Beginning about a month before school restarts, it is essential for teens to start waking up earlier so that when fall comes their “school’s in session” sleep schedule will be ready, without complications.
About a month before school starts is a good time to start school schedule sleeping habits.
In the zones
Summer is an excellent time for travel. Unfortunately, when we travel to different time zones, our bodies are still living in the time zone we started in. That’s what we call “jet lag.”
When we travel east, time zone differences can be quite taxing on our bodies. We have to get up earlier and go to bed earlier. This is not easy to do when your body is running on a different clock.
There is an old saying when it comes to jet lag from traveling to different time zones: East is least, West is best. When you travel west, you can get up later, which is much easier than getting up earlier when you go east.
Sunshine is helpful. When you arrive in a new time zone, take a walk in the sun. The sunlight can reset your internal clock, also known as your circadian clock, and will stop melatonin production. Melatonin can make you sleepy.
For adults, adding a little bit of caffeine to the sunlight walk can be even more helpful in maintaining wakefulness and resetting your internal clock as you inhabit a new time zone.
Keep it cool, regular, dark
When it comes to bedtime temperatures, cooler is better for quality sleep. When your core temperature falls, melatonin is released, enabling better quality sleep. If your core temperature stays high, this does not happen as well.
Core temperatures, in general, start to decrease at around 10:30 pm. The goal is to have your nighttime room temperature at 65-75 degrees.
Longer days can produce challenges, too. As the days get longer, we are tempted to stay up later. As a result, the amount of sleep time can get shorter. It is essential to keep a similar schedule for bedtime and wake-up times year ‘round.
The body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm loves a consistent schedule. In fact, some experts believe that a regular sleep schedule allows the body to require less sleep and makes one’s sleep more efficient and of better quality.
A pitch-black or very dark room is excellent for melatonin release, falling asleep, and quality sleep. But it is really tough when it comes to waking up.
Some sleep experts recommend an eye mask. It maintains darkness but allows a little light to come in around the edges. It can easily be removed in the morning when the alarm goes off.
- Don’t consume alcohol at night.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages late in the day.
- Limit the length of afternoon naps.
- Don’t eat late in the evening.
- Don’t exercise late in the day.
- Make sure your bed and pillow are comfortable.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every day.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Use lavender scents in the room or on an eye mask
- Talk to your doctor about melatonin supplements.
Remember, a good night’s sleep is just as important to your health as staying active and eating well.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of biology at Carleton College. He also has a private practice, Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, MN.
He received his MD and Master’s Degree in molecular biology and
genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Minnesota Medicine recognized Dr. Crutchfield as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. Dr. Crutchfield specializes in
skin-of-color and has been selected by physicians and nurses as one of the leading dermatologists in Minnesota for the past 18 years.
He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations and president of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians. He can be reached at CrutchfieldDermatology.com or by calling 651-209-3600.