Sleep is pretty much my favorite pastime. Over the years, even as other hobbies have come and gone — crocheting, piano playing and terrarium-making among them — snoozing has always been my preferred way to spend downtime.
And despite insomnia running in my family, I’ve always been blessed enough to be able to sleep when I want to, including during bad movies (sorry "Batman v Superman"), airport layovers and morning train rides to work. I’ve always been lucky when it comes to sleep ... until recently. As I’ve gotten older, and particularly during the warmer months of the year, I find it harder and harder to get to sleep and get the rest I need. What gives?
“Longer days certainly make it hard to get to bed on time,” says psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist Dr. Alex Dimitriu. “With a sunset time of 8 [p.m.], it’s easy to be outside later (enjoying the cooler evening), then come home and start the ‘regular’ evening routine. But now everything may be happening two to three hours later than in the winter months, so it’s easy to get to bed too late.”
Add to that busy social and work schedules, technology and stuffy bedrooms due to higher temps, and it’s no wonder that summer can be tough on our sleep schedules. In the middle of the latest heat wave, I set out to find out the snoozing mistakes to avoid in the summer.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
First things first, how much sleep should you actually be getting? We may accept the fact that we're willing to sacrifice a few hours of shuteye to take advantage of more daylight, but how do we know when we've crossed the line into sleep deprivation? "The answer is enough to not feel tired throughout the next day, and not require three orders of Starbucks to avoid being sleepy," Dimitriu says.
The time between noon and 4 p.m. will tell you a lot, he says. It's normal to feel a little sleepy during this time, but people who do not get enough sleep will often feel "significantly sleepy" in this window. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is also 3-minute test that can point out if you are abnormally sleepy or getting enough Zs.