Insomnia In the Summer: Natural Tips to a Better Night’s Sleep

Insomnia can plague all of us at any point in our lives, at any time of year.

At our clinic, we often see a steady uptick in the number of patients who complain of insomnia and poorer sleep during the summer months. Believe it or not, there is actually good reason for this change! And, better yet, there are positive steps you can take to help get a better night’s sleep. 

The reasons for worsened insomnia in the summer are many, but the biggest culprits are longer daylight hours and hotter temperatures. Here is what we know about these things from a scientific standpoint: First, your pineal gland turns on when exposed to daylight and this causes the brain to wake up. So, unless you sleep in a deep, dark cave (ooh, doesn’t that sound great right about now?), you will likely find it harder to sleep as late as you do during the winter months, simply because the sun begins to rise so early in the day. 

As for the hot weather, studies show that there is an important relationship between body temperature and room temperature, which creates a temperature gradient that promotes restful sleep. If the room temperature is too hot, this gradient is skewed and you lose sleep. For menopausal women experiencing hot flashes, this can be even more troublesome because their gradient is already out of balance due to higher body temperatures. This can be very uncomfortable, and that deep, dark cave can sound like a perfect hideaway. 

Interestingly, these explanations find a perfect crossover in Chinese Medicine and go far in explaining how acupuncture can help insomnia. According to Chinese medicine, insomnia is often related to an excess of heat in the body. This heat is then said to rise upward and harass the Heart, which is one of the primary organs responsible for getting quality sleep, thereby causing insomnia. This heat can arise from an imbalance in your body’s internal ecosystem (which is what acupuncture is always seeking to correct) or from exterior influences, such as hot weather. 

Why is all of this so important? Isn’t a summer of less sleep part and parcel for the season? Actually, no. Studies show that sleep deprivation has wide-ranging effects, from physical ailments to decreased success at work. (Huffington, 2016) The occasional night here or there may go unnoticed. But several weeks of poor sleep can take a significant toll on every area of your life. And as our under-functioning selves become habituated to this new way of being, we may not even be aware that we are operating at about 40% of our potential, and so continue in this fashion thinking it is our new norm. Yikes!

So, what do we do to treat insomnia? 

At Well Woman Acupuncture, we utilize acupuncture and herbs to help clear heat and bring the body back to a state of internal homeostasis. But there are a plethora of lifestyle tips that you can follow to help support your body and your sleep cycle:

  • Avoid alcohol in the summer months! As tempting as a cold brew sounds at the end of a hot day, alcohol is actually quite warming and creates unnecessary internal heat. And while its sedative properties lead us to believe it will help with sleep, that plan can backfire later in the night when your body heats up.
  • Avoid eating too late at night. With the longer days, it is easy to have dinner later in the day as well. However, the process of eating turns on our “metabolic fires” and, you guessed it, creates more internal heat during sleep. To prevent this, have your last meal of the day by 7:00 pm.
  • Avoid spicy food and sugar, both of which can cause higher body temperature.
  • Keep your bedroom cool or sleep in the basement. The best sleep happens when your room temperature is between 60-70 degrees (reference #2). You can accomplish this by keeping the blinds closed, adding a dehumidifier or fan, sleeping with a cooling gel towel (I like Frogg Toggs!) or adding a cooling system to your bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark. Use blackout shades or wear a soft eye mask.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet! Foam earplugs are a blessing. Wear them!
  • Stay well hydrated. Drink at least ½ of your body weight in ounces of water per day, evenly spread out throughout the day.
  • Eat foods that are naturally cooling to your system. These include:
    •  Pear, watermelon, blueberries, lemon, lime, mango (here’s a fantastically cooling Watermelon Soup with Mint recipe!)
    • Tofu
    • Celery, cucumber, asparagus, cabbage, lettuce
    • Mung beans, kidney beans
  • Read this book!
  • Consider acupuncture and herbs to help balance your system and clear any internal heat that may be interfering with your sleep.
Remember to keep your cool over the hot summer months and you’ll find yourself resting and feeling better as a result. And if the steps above don’t do the trick, just let us know. We are always happy to help!
References
1. Huffington, A. (2016). The Sleep Revolution. New York, NY, USA: Harmony Books
2. Osmun, R. (2015, May 22). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosie-osmun/sleeping-with-the-seasons-see-how-weather-influences-your-sleep_b_7269960.html
3. Steelman, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from Real Simple: https://www.realsimple.com/health/preventative-health/sleep/summer-sleeping-heatwave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *