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Summer Sleep: Long Days, Short Nights

summer sleep

Switching up schedules is a given in the summer as barbeques, beaches and ballgames coax us to be out and about. The longer days and sunny weather put everybody in the mood to stay up late and cram as much fun as we can into the season. But do you realize how summer is affecting your sleep or your kids’ sleep schedules?

According to sleep experts, little kids (3–5 years old) should be getting between 11 to 13 hours of sleep at night, especially if they have stopped napping regularly. The 6- to 12-year-olds need 10 or 11 hours. And those moody teenagers need at least nine! Most teens only tend to get about seven hours of sleep on average. (See Sleep in Adolescents.) And we all know that the average American adult is perpetually sleep deprived.

A late or short night here and there may not seem to wear anybody ragged, but you can’t hope to make up that summer sleep on the weekend if a regular bedtime for everyone has all but disappeared. Whenever possible, it really is best to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. These routines help the body and brain know when to ease up and when to engage which greatly improves your sleep. And good sleep greatly improves your health all year round.

Try to Keep a Sleep Schedule

If your family hung out in the neighbor’s backyard until nearly 11:00 pm last night, you’re going to have to expect some sleeping-in or a nap the next day. Overall, it’s better to try and keep a regular bedtime schedule, even if you’ve pushed it back a bit from the school year. Anyone on a summer break or vacation could even feel like they are being lazy by day, so why worry so much about sleeping at night. But keeping some consistency will help better sleep patterns when things get back to (“so-called”?) normal.

Prep for Back to School Bedtimes

Slowly shifting a later summer bedtime (for your kids and for grown-ups!) can be done in 15-minute increments. The week or so before school starts, set bedtimes back another quarter-hour each night or every two nights. That gradual shift can make all the difference when alarms start going off earlier than we want them to. Try this method to offset time changes if you are traveling abroad for vacation, too.

Just because that big ball of light in the sky is out more than you might be, you’ll get more out of those bright days if you can respect your sleep needs.

See more Tips to Promote a Good Night’s Sleep >>

Drowsy Driving on the Rise: Be Safe & Get to Sleep!

drowsy driving report

While you may never drive drunk and you’ve trained yourself to put the phone down and not text while driving, you may still be at risk of operating your car when you are way too tired.

The potentially fatal effects of drowsy driving are in the news again with the Governors Highway Safety Association’s new report showing that nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans are driving every day. While the actual numbers of accidents and fatalities are difficult to determine, the AAA Foundation estimates drowsiness causes an average 328,000 crashes per year, with 109,000 involving 6,400 fatalities.

drowsy driving fatalities

“Drowsy driving is more pervasive than we recognize, more commonplace and we’re all guilty of it,” said Pam Fischer, a former New Jersey highway safety official who wrote the report released this week. “And we have the ability to correct it. The fix is simple: Get more sleep.”

The bottom line is that too many of us are accepting sleep deprivation as the new normal. If the adverse health effects won’t lead you to treatment, the even scarier possibilities of a serious car accident should be that wake-up call. Plus, any motorist who has been awake for an extended period of time can experience performance deficits similar to that of someone who has been drinking. If you haven’t slept in 21 hours, you could have the same reaction time as someone with an alcohol concentration of 0.08%.

BAC drowsy driving

Sleep needs change for different age groups, but the average adult needs 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Do you get 9 hours of sleep? Do you know anyone who does?

Changing Your Sleep Habits

It’s time to change our habits and get help. First, try some of our Sleep Health Tips to switch up your behavior and cultivate good sleep hygiene. If trying those ideas don’t help, you may have a health problem hampering your ability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Talk to your doctor about how much and how well you are sleeping.

Once you can rule out environmental or possible medication side effects as the culprits, you may want to see a sleep specialist or do a sleep study. One of the usual suspects, obstructive sleep apnea, has several treatment options that get people back to sleep without medication. Some people even show improvement with new dental sleep treatments. Whatever the root cause of your short sleep nights, there is probably a treatment to help you get back to sleep and down the road safely.