Tifani Kinard

Tifani Kinard

Maybe it’s simply because the days are longer, but there’s something about summer that causes us to go to bed later and later, even when the alarm clock still goes off before the roosters.

Unfortunately, the need for a good night’s rest doesn’t take a summer break. It’s every bit as important to get your sleep during July as it is during January.

Defining a good night’s rest

A panel established by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) identifies 4 key indicators of a good night’s rest. Solid shuteye means:

♦ It takes you no more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

♦ You don’t wake up more than once in a night.

♦ If you do wake up, it takes you no more than 20 minutes to fall back asleep.

♦ When you are in bed, you spend more than 85% of your time sleeping.

While the urge to stay up later after a long summer day is tempting, ongoing research shows it’s a temptation that should be avoided. Here are 3 reasons to put sleep at the top of your to-do list:

It can boost your immune system

If you are struggling for shuteye, you are more likely to become sick. Ever wonder why? In a recent study, researchers may have found the answer. They looked at the sleep patterns of a small group of twins. Each twin set had one twin who slept, on average, 60 minutes less than the other. The researchers took blood samples from the study participants. After looking at the blood, they were able to see how parts of the immune system—specifically the white blood cells—didn’t work as well in the child who usually slept less than their brother or sister.

It can improve your memory, even as you age

We tend to forget more as we grow older. Research has proven that a good night’s rest may help save some of your memory. Results of 18 separate sleep studies that measured thinking skills and length of sleep in older adults indicated that sleeping too little or even too much can affect how well your mind works, especially your memory.

It may lower your risk for many diseases

Over time, not sleeping enough may affect your overall health and can lead to serious diseases. One recent study of more than 25,000 people found a lack of sleep may be linked to cancer. Those in the study who said they worked the night shift for more than 20 years were about 25 percent more likely to develop the disease in their lifetime. Other past research has suggested too little sleep for too long may raise your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.

For the best summer sleep, the NSF suggests a slightly cool room during summer weather. Also, choose blankets and linens that are not too heavy or confining. You could also use a fan, which produces white noise, an added benefit for blocking out other disruptive sounds during sleep.

Other recommendations for keeping your sleep environment cool during include keeping heat out during the day by closing blinds and windows as needed, taking a bath or shower before bed, and sleeping on a ground floor if you live a multi-story home, as heat has a tendency to rise.

Tifani Kinard is the Hospital Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer of Polk Medical Center.