Red summer sky

Sleepless in the Summer – How Extended Daylight Affects Our Health

Unless you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll get less sleep for the next several months.

The amount of light and darkness affects the timing and regulation of our sleep patterns. With increased daylight hours, our brains delay the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Most of us stay up later but still wake up at the same time each morning.

We’re more active in the summer, both physically and socially, making sleep more vital to recovery. The hot summer nights also hinder our ability to regulate body temperature.

The ideal sleeping temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A change of a degree or two at night can make the difference between being well-rested or a zombie.

Understanding Sleep

We understand that we can’t live without food, water, and oxygen but don’t quite grasp that a lack of sleep is equally as deadly. A human can survive for months without food and only days without sleep. Yet, it’s more likely that you would sacrifice sleep before skipping a meal.

Sleep is essential for the health and well-being of every animal on earth. Humans are the only animals that willfully forego sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 40% of adults suffer daytime sleepiness at severe enough levels to distract them from daily activities.

Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation is a highly effective persuasive power, and sleepiness affects your decision-making abilities. When you’re tired, you become vulnerable to taking excessive risks. That’s why casinos don’t have windows or clocks, always remain at a cool temperature, and have a combination of bright and soft lighting.

There’s no daylight in a casino, yet we think it’s always the middle of the day.

The next time you’re in a casino, take a look at the banks of slot machines. The machines on the ends are brightly colored to attract you, but the hues become softer towards the middle. They do this because you’ll move towards the warmer tones as you tire instead of getting up to leave. The longer you stay at the machines and the wearier you become, the more significant risks you are willing to take.

The most severe risk that Americans take regarding sleep is driving. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported accidents are caused by driver fatigue every year.

The summer months of June, July, and August have 29% more deaths than the winter months of December, January, and February.

A study conducted by AAA reports that sleeping only six to seven hours per night doubles your risk of being in a car crash than those who get eight hours of rest. Seriously sleep-deprived people with 5 hours or less rest increase their risk five times.

Circadian Rhythm

Every person has a unique sleep pattern. Some of us get to bed early, while others stay up later. This pattern is our circadian rhythm and is nature’s way of protecting our tribe. Someone always needed to be awake and on the lookout for danger.

About 40% of humans are “early risers,” and 20% fall into the “night owl” category. The remaining 40% are somewhere in between the two. Unfortunately for the night owls, we gear the modern work schedule towards morning people, so you’re the most likely to suffer from sleep issues.

The Sleep Cycle

Ideally, two types of sleep occur every night, NREM and REM—our body cycles through both kinds of sleep about every 90 minutes.


NREM stands for Non-Rapid Eye Movement and what we usually think of as sleep. NREM sleep does have multiple stages, but it’s the progressive slowing down of your brainwaves. This type of sleep is when your body restores energy and conducts essential maintenance.

During deep NREM sleep:

  • White blood cells get created, boosting our immune system.
  • Wounds heal.
  • Muscle tissue is restored.
  • Growth hormone is released.

When you don’t get enough sleep, these processes don’t have proper time to complete.

Another process happening during deep sleep is the reorganization of the mental pathways of your brain. This restructuring is necessary for learning to take place. The best way to learn and retain anything is to study and immediately sleep. Those all-nighters before finals in college did more harm than good. A good night’s sleep is the surest path to learning.


If you haven’t figured out that REM is Rapid Eye Movement, then you probably need more sleep. This type of sleep is when you dream. During this period, your brain is awake while your body remains dormant. This time is when your brain processes memories and develops new skills.

Some scientists believe REM sleep is the human equivalent of half-sleep. REM happens after NREM and could create awareness without waking completely every 90 minutes or so.

The reason it’s called REM sleep is due to brain activity during this stage. The body undergoes paralysis, and only your eyes can move.

The Value of Sleep

There are many theories as to why we sleep. The hypotheses range from Aristotle believing that your blood separates for health reasons to the modern science of maintaining systems and processing information.

We know that every animal does it, so there must be a valid biological explanation. Sleep science is a relatively new discipline, and continued discoveries about sleep functions occur regularly.

The proven benefits of sleep are lower body weight, improved concentration, maximized athletic performance, boosted immune functions, and reduced inflammation. Studies link poor sleep to depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Sleep is the cheapest, easiest-to-fill prescription your doctor can ever recommend.


Take care, even down there.

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