Summer sleep stealers: 5 effective steps to a good night’s rest

Sleep expert Rob Hobson shares simple yet effective ways to look after both – so you can get more Zzzs in the warmer months. 
summer tiredness - sleep

With over half of Brits (56%) – which equates to more than 25 million people – experiencing more disturbed sleep in the summer months, Yakult has teamed up with sleep expert and author of The Art of Sleeping Rob Hobson to share tips on ways to avoid five of the top ‘sleep stealers’ of the summer.

New research from Yakult reveals 40 per cent of people are not aware that good gut health could support the quality of their sleep. The reverse is also true that not getting enough rest can support good gut health, but nearly 1 in 3 are not aware of this. 

Rob shares simple yet effective ways to look after both – so you can get more zzz’s in the warmer months.   

From the best foods to eat to support sleep and simple ways to manage alcohol intake, to strategies to stay cool and manage stress, if you’re struggling to get to sleep this summer – give Rob’s tips a go. 

A healthy gut produces melatonin which is also known as the sleep hormone, but the research showed that 4 in 10 people which is over 47 per cent are not aware of the link between gut health and melatonin. Melatonin has been shown to have powerful antioxidant effects and can also help protect gut health. 

It seems that many people indulge in less gut-friendly eating and drinking habits in summer.  When those experiencing less sleep were asked about this, over half declared that say they eat more BBQ foods, more red meat said 20 per cent. Half of those asked also admitted they do drink more alcohol, a similar number 47 per cent said they do skip meals more often and nearly eighteen per cent eat less fruit and veggies. 

The research also revealed that summer is not great overall for our rest with a staggering 83 per cent saying they get less than the recommended 7-9 hours a night. Nearly 4 in 10 only sleeping for an average of 4-5 hours.  

Kale and spinach dish - sleep

Eat plenty of foods that support sleep

Eating a balanced diet can help support your gut health, which can, in turn, improve sleep quality. The quality of your sleep can also be directly influenced by the type of foods you choose to eat. Therefore, it’s particularly important to eat the right foods if you’re struggling to sleep. 

Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation. The mineral is present in dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Tryptophan helps to make melatonin – the sleep hormone – in the brain. It is found in oily fish, chicken, tofu, beans and oats. You can partner foods that are rich in tryptophan with carbohydrates to improve their uptake into the brain. Vitamin B6 found in foods such as chicken, salmon, chickpeas, lentils, avocado and bananas is also involved in melatonin production, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

These foods can even be combined to create ‘summer sleep’ dishes such as barbecued mackerel or salmon, with savoury rice, mango salsa, or jerk-marinated tofu steaks, which makes a delicious meal. Serve these with a big mixed leafy salad and chopped nuts and seeds for extra “sleep nutrients” as well as gut health benefits from the high fibre content. 

circadian rhythm - sleep

Keep it cool and dark

Our exposure to light and dark has a big impact on how well we sleep. Light has a powerful effect on the circadian rhythm, and darkness stimulates the pineal gland to secrete melatonin (the sleep hormone). 

This helps to regulate your circadian rhythm so that you feel sleepy at night and wake up when it gets light. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that helps to set your sleep pattern by controlling the flow of hormones and other biological processes. 

During the summer months, the evenings get longer and lighter, making it challenging to sleep, especially if you like getting to bed early. To help keep your bedroom dark during the summer, make sure your curtains are well-fitted, and keep them shut with a few pegs if this is a problem. You could even invest in blackout blinds, which can be bought fairly cheaply. If the temperature gets sweltering, keep your curtains or blinds closed during the day and the window open – to block out light and keep the air moving. 

A few people have air conditioning in their homes, but you can create your own at night by placing a bottle of frozen water in front of your fan to cool the air (just be sure to put the bottle on a small plate to catch the drips). 

opt for cooler bedsheets - sleep

Control your body temperature

The right bedding and nightwear can help control body temperature during the night. Ditch the duvet and replace it with a cotton sheet to help regulate your body temperature. Cotton bed wear will not only help keep you cool, but also wick any sweat off your skin and act as a barrier between you and your bed sheets (which might be warm). Placing your pyjamas in a sealable bag in the freezer and wearing them just before bed can also help cool you down. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, taking a warm shower can help you cool down ahead of sleep. During the evening, your body temperature drops in accordance with your circadian rhythm and melatonin is released to prepare you for sleep, this drop in body temperature is 2 to 3 degrees which initiates a good night’s sleep. Taking a warm shower an hour or so before bed boosts circulation to direct heat from our core to the hands and feet where it is quickly expelled. This cooling-down process makes you sleepy and ready for bed. 

cut down alcohol intake - sleep

Find strategies to manage your alcohol intake

Alcohol is a well-known sleep marauder for many reasons, including causing disruptions to specific sleep cycle stages, dehydration, and frequent bathroom visits during the night. However, this doesn’t mean you have to give up drinking completely during the summer months. Find strategies to drink less alcohol in order to improve your sleep – and there are many ways to do this without feeling as though you are hijacking a good night out with your friends during the summer. 

For example, switch to low-alcohol beer or mocktails in place of your usual order, or between alcoholic drinks. You can also try to water down your drinks by mixing rosé with soda water. Non-alcoholic spirit options such as gin can easily be made to look like their alcoholic counterparts with sliced fruit and plenty of ice. During the hotter months or when you are on holiday, you can quickly become dehydrated, which can impact your gut and how well you feel, so ensure you drink water between alcoholic drinks too. More tips on how to reduce your alcohol intake.

stress - sleep

Manage your stress

Stress is one of the most common reasons people cannot sleep. The anxiety associated with stress can also build up as you lie awake worrying about the day ahead. While going on holiday is something to look forward to, even this can be a source of anxiety as you worry about packing, travelling with children, or flying. 

If you wake up and start feeling anxious or stressed, try breathing exercises. One simple exercise is to breathe in for six seconds, then hold for six seconds before breathing out for six seconds and hold again for six seconds. Repeat this several times until you start to feel more relaxed. You can do this anywhere – even on the plane. 

In fact, holidays overseas offer a perfect backdrop to help you find inner peace. Try breathing or mindfulness exercises at your favourite time of day in a quiet spot on the beach. Stress can also impact on the gut by altering the composition of bacteria in your gut which can influence on eating behaviour and mood. See here for more on coping with stress.

If you found Summer sleep stealers: 5 effective steps to a good night’s rest helpful, you’ll find more tips to help with disrupted sleep on our Health channel.

Tags: Last modified: August 13, 2023

Written by 9:58 am General Health, Health