Mood certainly effects your sleep, and vice versa. In November we wrote a blog post that addressed sleep and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and what you can do to help make it through our long and dark winters. On the flip side, did you know that for some people SAD is more of an issue in the summer than the winter?
Summer SAD affects women more than men and is more prevalent in locations where summer temperatures tend to rise quite high. As with the more commonly known winter SAD, people with summer SAD can suffer from similar symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, loss of interest in activities, in addition to feeling unable to cope with the heat and humidity.
How Seasonal Affective Disorder May Effect You In The Summer
When it comes to sleep, winter SAD suffers tend to oversleep and not want to get out of bed. Summer SAD, on the other hand, leaves people struggling with insomnia. In addition to hot temperatures that make many people uncomfortable, some of the others reasons why you may be affected by summer SAD include:
- Summer build up. There can be a lot of pressure to have a fun and carefree summer. When there’s a disconnect between your expectation and reality, that gap can cause disappointment, major stress, or even depression. These feelings can be compounded if you feel like you’re the only one who’s not having as much fun as expected, and we can thank social media for providing a wide lens into the summer adventures of our peers.
- A busier season. With kids out of school and people on vacation, the world can certainly seem louder and much busier. The ‘extra’ of summer life can make many people anxious, especially if you find yourself unable to carve out needed quiet time.
- Less sleep. Long, bright days influence people to get up earlier and stay up later. Overtime, this lack of sleep will leave you feeling sleep deprived, something that is more common in summer than any other time of the year. When you aren’t getting the sleep you need, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to depression and emotional sensitivity.
- Interrupted routines and schedules. For parents with young kids, me-time disappears quickly over summer break. Add on some travel and varying schedules every week and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out.
- Financial strain. Add up the cost of vacations (even staycations aren’t free!), summer camps or childcare, and a few day trips and it’s easy to see why summer can be pricey. Worrying about money can be just one more thing to juggle, adding to your summer anxiety or depression, and keeping you up at night.
The reality is that it’s not just the longer days and hot temperatures that may be causing you to lose sleep during the summer months. Any of the factors listed above can contribute to insomnia and disrupted sleep, leading to increased agitation, feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious.
Solutions For Dealing With Summer SAD That Will Keep Your Sleep On Track This Summer
In order to keep your summer on track and still ensure you’re getting the down time and the sleep you need, try creating a plan that incorporates the following:
- Manage your expectations right from the get go. If you’re picturing a perfect summer creating perfect memories, you’re bound to feel disappointed. Especially for families with young children. Know that it’s the simple things that will bring them joy. Planning too many summer ‘should dos’ will leave everyone cranky and exhausted.
- Plan for summer down time. If you have kids at home for the summer, make a plan to share childcare with other parents or find a babysitter so that you can have a few hours or days to yourself if at all possible. This is not an indulgence, but a proactive plan to manage your mental health. Additionally, try to intersperse high energy activities with lower key ones so that you have time to recharge.
- Adjust your bedtime routine. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will help you sleep better at night, but in the summer time, it’s also worth investing in black out blinds so that you can go to bed when you need to and not be woken up too early by the early morning sun.
- Prioritize your sleep environment. Since summer SAD increases insomnia, focus on creating a sleep environment that will help you sleep well. Clear out the clutter from your bedroom, make sure you have light pyjamas so you won’t overheat, and do what you can to keep the temperature of your bedroom cool, whether that be with air conditioning or the use of fans. Adding a white noise machine to drown out early morning birds is also recommended.
Summer SAD tends to show up initially as agitation rather than winter’s lethargy. You may find yourself too jittery to eat, sleep, or follow your usual routines. It’s okay to admit that summer is hard for you. If you feel like you’re struggling in the summer months and notice some of the signs and symptoms above affecting your life, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.