Why can't I sleep? It's summer insomnia, and here's what to do about it...

Hot weather and short nights can make getting to sleep difficult. Summer insomnia has proven physiological reasons – and there are (some quite surprising) solutions

girl sleeping in bed by getty images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are you feeling like you're going to bed later and later now that it's summer? Then having trouble getting to sleep once you're in bed? While many of us are enjoying the longer days and, according to the forecast, hotter weather, getting enough sleep when it never seems to get properly dark or cool is a real struggle for some of us. 

If you do find yourself unable to drift off, there's a proven physiological reason for it. The low-level light that lingers until late in the evening in mid summer is actually suppressing the production of melatonin – the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. We've all heard about the adverse effects on sleep of the light emitted by mobile phones and laptops; turns out that long summer nights have approximately the same effect on our bodies. 

So, what can you do to combat these disturbing effects of the summer solstice on your sleep patterns? Apart from the obvious tips to turn off your phone and use blackout curtains, sleep experts also recommend wearing your sunglasses for about an hour before bed. It may look odd, but many people report it works. 

Back to those curtains, blackout or not. If you draw them around two hours before bedtime and dim lights, you will find it easier to fall asleep. If the weather's hot, this might exaggerate your insomnia (people sleep better when their core body temperature falls). So, keeping those curtains drawn during the day, cracking windows open on both sides of the room or house to create a through-draught, using a fan in your bedroom – or air conditioning if you have it – can all help with this. 

Unexpectedly, taking a hot bath or shower will also help your core temperature drop once you go to bed, so doing this, too, can promote sleep. Failing that, a mattress cooling pad can bring relief if you find it hard to get to sleep on hot nights.

Improving bed hygiene can also vastly improve your sleep quality. Think new, breathable mattress, crisp and fresh bedlinen (cotton or linen, never synthetic), and a lighter duvet. Avoid winter duvets in summer, as they trap heat, making you sweaty and uncomfortable. 

Finally, if you still can't drift off to sleep straight away, don't panic. Read a book or listen to a relaxing recording, until you are sleepy. TV or phone scrolling? Forget it.

For even more tips, check out our guide on how to sleep well