When you’re in school, summer break smells a lot like sweet freedom. Long days full of sunshine and fun end with late nights climbing into soft, cool sheets for a peaceful slumber. And the best part: not setting an alarm clock to get up for school the following day. Pure bliss.
Soon enough, summer break will be coming to an end, and it will be time to get back on a solid sleep schedule. We’ll talk about how to get your sleep schedule back on track now, so as you bid farewell to sweet summertime, you don’t also have to say goodbye to good sleep.
Summer’s Impact on Sleep
Animals, including humans, have a circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal time clock that uses cues like temperature and light to promote waking and sleeping. This internal clock changes with the seasons.
Naturally, your body produces more melatonin in winter and less in summer. So, you may find yourself getting sleepy a bit earlier during the winter months, but then you’ll probably also wake up earlier. In the summer, and especially on summer break, you may stay up later and sleep later. For people between the ages of 15 and 20, there is little difference in sleep duration between winter and summer. In other words, for the younger population, it all balances out unless, of course, you’re staying up later and not sleeping later to make up for it.
But aside from the circadian rhythm, other things can affect your sleep schedule in the summertime.
- Temperature plays a significant role in how well you sleep. If it’s hot outside and the air conditioner is working hard inside to keep it even moderately comfortable, it may not be cool enough for good sleep.
- If your mattress and bedding hold heat, this will also affect your ability to sleep well during the summer.
- If you’re staying up late each night and instead of sleeping in, you’re getting up early excited to start the day, this affects your sleep schedule.
So, great news! Nature is on your side. Since sleep duration for younger ages is not usually significantly affected by seasonal changes, getting your sleep schedule back on track for school is totally within your control. But how? Keep reading.
Preparing for the School Year
It’s time to get back to class, catch up with your friends, and nail all your exams. Here are some tried and true ways to make sure you’re at your best in time for your best school year yet.
Start the sleep schedule transition now
Determine how much sleep you need each night, and if you’re not getting that amount, start now. Depending on your age, you’ll need anywhere from eight to ten hours of sleep each night for optimal health and wellness.
If you’re getting the needed amount of sleep but are concerned about the shift in sleeping and waking up times, start rolling back your sleep time 30 minutes to an hour at a time. If, after a few days, you are falling asleep earlier but still sleeping much later than you will be when school starts, start setting your alarm.
If you’re currently staying up until midnight and sleeping until 10 a.m. and then suddenly one night try to go to bed at 9 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m., you should expect to feel tired and a bit “off” that day. Starting your sleep schedule transition now will make for a happier first day back to school.
It’s no secret that caffeine negatively affects sleep. Studies show it can take more than five hours for one cup of coffee to get out of our systems. As you prepare to get back to class, avoiding caffeine entirely may help you get your sleep schedule back on track. But, if you can’t imagine life without coffee, be sure to have it in the morning and avoid any other caffeine throughout the day. If you do make the mistake of a late-day cup of joe, here are some tips to help you get to sleep post-caffeine.
Shut off the electronics
Electronics and the blue light they emit are stimulants and mess with your circadian rhythm. Yes, we know it’s fun to lay in bed and scroll through social media or binge the latest Netflix series, but if you need to get your sleep patterns back on track, shut down all electronics in the bedroom, even the television. This will reduce your blue light exposure and help your brain and body relax enough to fall asleep.
Use cool bedding
If you live with your parents or roommates, you may not always have ultimate control over the thermostat. But perhaps you do have some influence on your bedding choices. Upgrading your mattress to a cooling mattress and your bedding to cooling sheets can help you have a more comfortable (and inviting) night’s sleep.
For tips on cooling bedding and other ways to sleep cool in the summer months, check out our expert tips to keep you cool this summer.
Start your day off right
It can be so tempting to cover your head and stay in bed when the dreaded alarm sounds but don’t do it. Falling back asleep will only delay your waking up process. Instead, turn the alarm off and turn on some of your favorite music instead (at a volume that is mindful of your family or roomies, of course). Once you’ve stretched for a few moments, get up, make your bed, take an energizing shower and grab a nutritious breakfast before you rule the day.
As summer break winds down, remember that there will be another one around the corner. For now, focus on getting your sleep schedule back on track so that you can be the best version of yourself and have an awesome year at school. The tips we’ve listed here are all part of good sleep hygiene — and good sleep is critical to living your best life.