Appointment with Dr. Shukla?
SUMMER SLEEP DISORDERS
Summer Sleep Disorders
While few people live far enough north that the sun never sets in the summer months, long summer days are a reality for all of us. For many people, these long days mean restless nights in the form of insomnia. Fortunately, there are solutions.
Appointment with Dr. Shukla?
Researchers don’t know for sure why some people suffer from summer insomnia, but there are a number of possible causes. Things like the inability to get comfortable in the heat, a different daily routine, more hours of sunlight each day, sun or warm weather related health issues, and changing levels of hormones like estrogen, serotonin, and melatonin throughout the year can all lead to summer insomnia
Another possible cause is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Many people realize that SAD can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety in the colder months, but fewer know that SAD can also be summer-onset. One of the most debilitating symptoms of summer-onset SAD is insomnia during the summer months.
Often, summer insomnia can be accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms. These can include depression, weight loss, poor appetite, agitation, and anxiety
Prevention and Treatment
Fortunately, there a number of steps you can take to help yourself sleep better in the summer.
Some people take supplements like St. John’s wort, SAMe (S-adenosyl–L-methionine), melatonin, and omega-3 fatty acids to help sleep and reduce other possible symptoms. Remember, however, that supplements often aren’t FDA approved, meaning that you can’t always be certain what you’re getting and if it’s safe, and may interact with drugs you already take. Always talk to a doctor before introducing supplements to your healthcare routine.
A regular exercise regimen helps relieve stress and anxiety which can keep you up at night, and produces hormones that can help the body sleep. However, exercising right before bed can keep you up, so make sure you get your work out in earlier in the day. Meditation techniques like positive, relaxing imagery can help clear your mind and relax you. Activities like yoga can combine physical activity and meditation. Some people find acupuncture and massage therapy helpful.
If it’s the heat that’s keeping you up, you can take steps to cool the room and yourself down and improve your sleep hygiene. Replace any heavy bedding with light colored cotton sheets. Wear light, breathable clothing like t-shirts and lightweight shorts to bed. Open windows and try a box fan to circulate air. Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated and cool while you sleep. Don’t skimp earlier in the day and try to catch up in the evening or you’ll keep yourself up making bathroom visits.
No matter what changes you make, always consult with a doctor about major medical decisions, and stick to the treatment plan your doctor recommends. For example, if you think a newly prescribed medication is keeping you up at night, don’t stop taking the medication until you’ve talked to your doctor. Remember to practice self care by eating healthy, giving yourself plenty of time to rest and relax, and take time to socialize and maintain relationships. Do not attempt to use alcohol or recreational or illegal drugs to get relief.
While lifestyle changes can be helpful, if you experience summer insomnia you should make an appointment with a doctor specializing in sleep to make a treatment plan and check for underlying problems.
Before your appointment, you should consider several things in order to help your doctor diagnose you and establish a treatment plan. Think about your other symptoms, such as feelings of depression or anxiety. Note any major mental or physical problems. Write down all medications, vitamins, and supplements you take, including dosage and what time you take them. Think of any stressors or changes to your routine that you’ve faced recently. You may also want to consider a sleep journal in which you note foods and stressors alongside the quality of your sleep.
At your appointment, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor questions or share concerns. You should come out of your appointment understanding your doctor’s recommendation and confident in your ability to stick to it. Consider asking for information sheets or pamphlets that you can take home. Your doctor may do a physical, request a lab test, and/or a psychological evaluation (or refer you to a psychiatric professional for an evaluation).