How To Get The Best Night's Sleep This Summer
Summer’s (almost) here!
We don’t know about you, but we’re incredibly excited for longer days, fun in the sun, some outdoor time at the beach or lake or playground, barbecues, and so much more.
Of course, it’s hard to enjoy this season (or any season!) if you’re dealing with excessive sleep deprivation.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of ways to ensure you’re getting the best night's sleep possible for the summer.
CREATE THE RIGHT SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Your sleep environment matters!
From light to noise to temperature, taking the time to create the right sleep environment for yourself is just as important as creating the right sleep environment for your children.
So how do you do that?
LOOK TO THE LIGHT
At Kulala, we talk extensively about how important light is to your child’s sleep. But did you know that light is also incredibly important to your own?
Light is made up of different wavelengths that correspond to different colors. In the morning, sunlight has a higher proportion of blue light, signaling to our bodies it’s time to wake up. In the evening, the blue light in natural light decreases as the amount of red light rises—just look at the sunset, with its pink, orange, or red light, for proof of that. This decrease in blue light and increase in red light tells our bodies it’s time to get ready for sleep.
This is how circadian rhythm works.
Melatonin, the hormone released at night that regulates our sleep, has been shown to decrease in the presence of blue light. Artificial lights, like lightbulbs and the light from TVs, tablets, and smartphones, may look yellow or white to our eyes—but they all release some amount of blue light. Even candlelight has a small amount of blue light in it.
So it stands to reason to help us sleep, we need to eliminate blue light from our sleep environments.
Children are more sensitive to blue light than we are. But blue light also affects melatonin in adults.
So while you’re doing everything to ensure there’s no blue light in your child’s bedroom during the time they’re supposed to be asleep—why not take a look at your own room?
So to create the right light for sleep in your own bedroom, there are a few things you can do.
INVEST IN GOOD BLACKOUT SHADES
Summer means longer days, which is great—most of the time!
What’s not so great is when the sun peeks through your window sooner than you’re ready to rise. This time of year, the sun is coming up around 5:30 AM where we live, in New York. It may vary depending on your location, but in general, the sun rises early this time of year.
If you like being an early riser—great! But if you’d like to sleep in a little longer than 5:30, you need to ensure that sunlight stays out of your bedroom until you’re ready for it.
That’s why we recommend blackout shades for your own bedroom as well as your child’s. Blackout shades will help keep out that early morning sunlight that can signal to your body it’s time to wake up.
Which blackout shades should you buy?
There are several options.
Amazon makes some basic, affordable, portable shades that we love. For a more permanent, albeit slightly pricier option, Home Depot makes custom-cut blackout shades. And the New York Times recently did a great roundup of the best shades on the market; check it out and find the right ones for you.
TURN OFF OR DIM ALL SCREENS AN HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME
Screen time is best reduced at bedtime. And this is not only to get yourself away from stimulating content like the news.
No, the most important component of eliminating screens is getting our eyes away from the blue light screens emit. Smart phones and tablets that aren’t on Night Mode emit a large amount of blue light that will hinder your ability to get to sleep.
If you need your screen at bedtime, say, if you read on an e-Reader, don’t despair. Just get one where you can set the screen to Night Mode. This means the blue light coming out of the screen is eliminated.
GET A RED LIGHT LAMP FOR YOUR BEDROOM
While the bulbs in the lamps in your bedroom may feel minimally invasive when it comes to light, the truth is all lightbulbs have a little blue light in them—except red light lamps.
Red light has been used in labs for years in order to allow scientists to work with their subjects, be they flies or another kind of insect or animal, without disrupting their sleep. Unlike blue light, red light does not disrupt melatonin production, which means it doesn’t disturb your circadian rhythm.
We’ve talked about the importance of red light in your child’s bedroom; but have you considered getting a red light lamp in your own bedroom, too?
An hour before bedtime, switch off all lights that aren’t your red light. This way, you’re signaling to your body that it’s time to get ready for sleep.
You can easily find red light bulbs in any hardware store and simply replace your existing light bulbs in your child's bedroom lamps with them. You can also buy a lamp made specifically for this purpose.
The Kulala Baby Sleep Lamp was designed with circadian rhythm in mind. It’s a stylish lamp that looks great in any bedroom, child’s or adult’s!
If you’ve ever tried to go to sleep in a place where the air doesn’t work on a hot summer night, you know that it’s much harder to get to sleep when it’s too warm. Why?
This also has to do with circadian rhythm.
Our bodies are programmed to get sleepier when it’s cooler. In fact, our internal temperatures actually drop when bedtime is getting nearer. This decrease in temperature signals to our brains it’s time for bed. But if you’re in a warm environment, that can counter your natural internal temperature decrease, so your brain doesn’t receive that signal.
So what can you do to address that?
ADJUST YOUR BEDROOM TEMPERATURE
The ideal temperature for sleep in a child’s bedroom is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. For adults, it’s even lower; around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the general recommendation. If you have central air, the solution is easy-peasy. If not, there are other ways to cool down.
GET A FAN
A rotating fan or ceiling fan can also help drop the temperature in your room.
TAKE A COLD SHOWER
Taking a quick, cool shower just before bed can also lower your body’s internal temperature and signal to your brain it’s time to go to sleep.
DRINK SOME COLD WATER
Keep a glass or water bottle of ice water near your bed as another way to help drop your internal temperature, before bed and if you wake up during the night and are too hot.
LOOK TO YOUR SLEEP POSITION
Sleeping curled up in a ball helps your body retain heat. Conversely, sleeping with your arms and legs flung out, away from your body (assuming you have the room) can help cool you down.
CHECK YOUR PAJAMAS
Obviously, sleeping in flannel is not a good idea if you’re looking to cool down. Sleep in PJs made of light, breathable fabric. (OR—skip the PJs all together!)
For more tips, check out this article on staying cool for sleep from The Sleep Foundation.
Now that we’ve created the perfect sleep environment for ourselves, we have to address another big factor when it comes to sleep: schedule.
A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE
That’s right: schedules aren’t just for your children!
Studies have shown that adults who go to bed and wake up around the same time every day get overall better sleep. Just as we’re training our children’s bodies to expect sleep at the same time every day, we can do the same to ourselves.
We’ve already discussed the importance of circadian rhythm when it comes to light. Circadian rhythm is also important when it comes to your sleep schedule.
- Find your ideal bedtime. Many of you know this, but if you're not sure, get up at the exact same time every day for 1 week. Adjust your bedtime each night until you sleep easily and soundly all night and feel rested during the day.
- Figure out how much sleep you need. If you wake up during the night and can't fall back asleep, or wake up too early in the morning and can't fall back asleep despite blackout shades, your might need less sleep than you think. Go to bed later every second day, in 20 minute intervals. However if you fall asleep instantly, sleep like the dead, and still feel groggy the next day, you might need more sleep. Keep the morning wake time the same, but go to bed earlier, every second day, in 20 minute intervals.
- Give yourself time to adjust. It takes a few days for our bodies to adjust to a new sleep schedule. So make the changes above slowly. Stay on a particular schedule for at least 2 days, and then make the next change. When you feel like you've found the sweet spot, stay on that schedule. Repeat every single day—even on weekends and vacations. You're helping your circadian rhythm help you sleep!
ADDRESS YOUR CHILD’S SLEEP PROBLEMS
Of course, the perfect bedroom environment and the right schedule isn’t going to help if you have a child who isn’t sleeping through the night.
If you’re a brand-new parent, you’re going to be sleep-deprived for the first few months—that part is inevitable and normal. Newborns sleep in shorter cycles and need to eat more frequently than older babies and children.
But once your child has reached the age and size when it’s appropriate to help them learn how to sleep through the night (babies should be at least 11 pounds, which a typical baby reaches at around 3 months of age, and should have slept for a 5-hour stretch at least once), we encourage you to help them learn how to do so.
At Kulala, we use a gentle sleep training method that is easier on both baby and parents. It may take a few days, but using this method, you should be able to help your little one how to sleep through the night on their own. This not only gives better sleep to you, the parents, but also to your child.
And if you need even more personalized help, download our app to chat one-on-one with our sleep experts!