Back to school, that time of year that invisibly marks the transition from Summer into Fall. But as school draws near, in many places the heat shows no sign of dissipating. And if your child has been struggling to sleep this summer due to heat, light or bugs you may have concerns about whether they will be getting enough sleep to cope when they go back to school.
In this article we look at some of the reasons for poor summer sleep and give our suggestions to solve these issues.
- BEAT THE HEAT: Your circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that controls things like body temperature and hormone production. This helps your body know when it is time to sleep and time to wake. Environmental temperature affects your circadian rhythm. In fact, the ideal temperature in which to sleep in 64-71 degrees Fahrenheit. wever, when summer temperatures soar it is often hotter than this. To fall asleep our body temperature needs to drop. How can we make this happen when it’s still hot out?
- Air Conditioning - The quickest and easiest solution to control the temperature. Set it to 18 degrees for a good night’s sleep. However, not everyone has one in their bedrooms. Add to that the cost of installing or running an aircon all night or the environmental impact and sometimes it’s just not practical solution. But there are other ideas that can help.
- Fans - Used correctly fans can make a big difference. Whether its ceiling fan or portable fan this can really help you to sleep by creating a breeze like affect. Placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help to create an ‘air conditioner’ affect.
- Linen - Choose natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo and linen for summer and say no to polycotton. It may be easy to wash but it will not allow air to circulate. Get rid of heavy duvets and use a sheet. You could also look for temperature regulating sheets like the ones developed by NASA to keep astronauts cool.
- Pajamas - Again cotton is the way to go. Keep fabrics loose and light. Another option is to sleep in performance clothes designed to wick sweat away and keep you dry and cool.
- Sprays - A light misting of water on your linen can create the coolness you need to sleep. Add a drop of lavender essential oil to encourage sleep or cooling herbs like mint and aloe vera. Dampen curtains and sleep with the windows open to allow air to cool as it passes through. A spray made from water and rosewater and kept on your bedside table can be used on skin during the night. Refrigerate during the day to keep it cool through the night.
- Humidifiers - A cool mist humidifier can also help to keep the room cooler and can also have the added benefit of easing summer allergies.
- Hydration - Your body needs to be well hydrated for a good night’s sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. A lovely summer drink to cool your internal body temperature is rose water added to water. Add mint or pieces of watermelon, cucumber or lime to supercharge this effect.
- The Big Freeze - Ever thought about popping your fitted sheet or pillow/pillow case into a bag and into the freezer? Freeze a water bottle, wheat bag or your child’s favorite teddy. This will also have the added benefits of killing dust mites.
- Bath or shower before bed - We know it’s hot, so we don’t recommend a hot shower or bath but a cold one is not a good idea either. Keep the water tepid so that your body temperature can drop.
- Room temperature - Keep curtains closed during the day if the bedroom gets sun. Keep lights and appliances off where possible. These produce heat.
- Regulate temperature - Check your child’s body and room temperature before going to bed. Perhaps a cold wheat bag is needed. A wheat bag can be used either heated or cooled to warm or cool the child’s bed or relieve muscle pain. Feet can be exposed to cool them down or ensure the neck is exposed and cool. If your child is too hot they might wake between sleep cycles.
- LOSE THE LIGHT: Another reason for poor summer sleep can be longer daylight hours. This affects the body’s circadian rhythm and lead to children especially falling asleep late or waking early. Add warmer temperatures and you might have some very early risers.
- Blackout Curtains - Keep light, sun and heat out with blackout curtains. If you are traveling an alternative to use is black garbage bags and tape.
- Sleep/Wake lights: With curtains closed and light blocked out a wake light like the one in Tick Tock Turtle can help to wake your child at the correct time. The ‘countdown’ ok to wake clock can also help them understand why they need to go to sleep or stay in bed even if it is light outside.
- BUST THE BUGS: If pesky mosquitos or chirping crickets are keeping you or your child awake in Summer try these solutions:
- Blast the fan or aircon - Mosquitoes hate this. Let them fly away… and the white noise will drown out the louder insect varieties.
- Lose the light-again - Insects are attracted to light. However a study found that they have a preference for blue light, so if your child absolutely has to sleep with a night light choose a red light source.
- Citronella sprays or oil diffusers - Mosquitos hate citronella too. A natural and safe way to say bye-bye bugs.
- Mosquito Net - Another easy, chemical free way to keep bugs out.
As summer fades, and the excitement of a new school year creeps in, don’t let lack of sleep get the better of you or your family. Stay cool for back to school!