August 13, 2023 4 min read

Summer is in full swing. That means you can finally enjoy longer days, warm weather, and a much shorter “to-do” list. While it is good to be able to relax and recharge after a busy start of the year, summer is also an opportunity to refocus on important matters, like your health!


For many of us, our busy lifestyles get in the way of caring for our health. And according to an article by sleep and chronobiology expert Tamar Shochat published inNature and Science of Sleep, our sleep suffers as a result [1]. Things like shift work, air travel, electronic media, and unhealthy habits are all playing a part in damaging our health and sleep.


If you want to put an end to this, here are five tips to relax, rewind and refocus on your health this summer season.

1. Practice Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is simply following healthy habits that promote good sleep. The concept was first introduced in 1939 by sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman and later refined by insomnia expert Peter Hauri. Sleep hygiene generally has four components: 


  1. A consistent sleep schedule.
  2. A quiet and comfortable sleep environment.
  3. Avoidance of sedatives and stimulants (especially before bedtime).
  4. Good physical activity levels.


Other aspects of good sleep hygiene are prioritizing sleep in your daily routine, making your naps short, avoiding late meals, and spending more time outdoors. 


The summer season can help you stick to all of the above. For example, warm and sunny days can help motivate you to spend time outdoors and exercise. 

2. Change Your Diet

An unhealthy diet is a major risk factor for poor health and poor sleep[2]! Eating close to bedtime and a diet high in sugar and saturated fat, for example, were found to lead to less time spent in deep sleep and frequent awakenings [3]. A poor diet also causes weight gain, which increases your risk of developing sleep apnea.


While there are different views on what constitutes a healthy diet, researchers almost universally agree that a diet rich in minimally processed foods rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats is best. Examples are the Mediterranean diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) [4]. 


In summer, it’s normal to feel less hungry and see cravings diminish. That means you may find it easier to adopt healthier eating habits.

3. Revive Your Social Life

The importance of having social connections is an often overlooked contributor to good health.  


Social scientists have long ago observed how social isolation harms mental and physical health. Social ties help regulate our behavior, which can explain this phenomenon. We are less likely to smoke, abuse alcohol or engage in other unhealthy habits when we have someone to care for or who cares about us [5]. 


And when it comes to sleep, the evidence is clear: having an active social life makes it less likely for you to suffer insomnia [6] because social support is a major buffer against stress and poor mental health. 


With more free time and a longer list of fun events, summer is the best time of year to connect.

4. Try De-Stressing Techniques

Summer vacations are all about decompressing and relaxing, so it might be the ideal time to practice stress management that you can incorporate into your usual routine. Unmanaged stress is common in our fast-past, competitive world. Unfortunately, this problem affects nearly every aspect of health, sleep being no exception [7].


While it’s relatively easy to manage stress on the beach or at a cocktail bar, the same thing rarely applies at work or home. That’s where stress management techniques can help. Here are just a couple of ideas you may want to practice this summer:


  • Psychotherapy
  • Positive thinking
  • Time management 
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Yoga and deep breathing exercises
  • Hobbies and leisure time

5. Consider Getting a Health Check-Up

If you don’t plan to vacation, then consider getting a health check-up. Regular health checks can detect signs of health issues early, which increases your chances of effective treatment. From heart disease and diabetes to autoimmune conditions and cancer, many problems are undiagnosed until it’s too late. 


One health problem that is critically underdiagnosed is sleep apnea. Studies on patients undergoing surgery frequently find that a large proportion — up to 92% — had no idea they had sleep apnea [8]. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder where disrupted breathing causes chronically fragmented sleep. Early treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or  oral appliances reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attacks and even diabetes.

But to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, you must speak to your doctor. If you snore loudly, wake up with headaches, and feel sleepy during the day, call your doctor’s office for a check-up.


Reference: 

  1. Shochat T. Impact of lifestyle and technology developments on sleep.Nat Sci Sleep. 2012;4:19-31. Published 2012 Mar 6.doi:10.2147/NSS.S18891

  1. Godos J, Grosso G, Castellano S, Galvano F, Caraci F, Ferri R. Association between diet and sleep quality: A systematic review.Sleep Med Rev. 2021;57:101430.doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101430

  1. Binks H, E Vincent G, Gupta C, Irwin C, Khalesi S. Effects of Diet on Sleep: A Narrative Review.Nutrients. 2020;12(4):936. Published 2020 Mar 27.doi:10.3390/nu12040936

  1. Cena H, Calder PC. Defining a Healthy Diet: Evidence for The Role of Contemporary Dietary Patterns in Health and Disease.Nutrients. 2020;12(2):334. Published 2020 Jan 27.doi:10.3390/nu12020334

  1. Umberson D, Montez JK. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy.J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl(Suppl):S54-S66.doi:10.1177/0022146510383501

  1. Endeshaw YW, Yoo W. Association Between Social and Physical Activities and Insomnia Symptoms Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults.J Aging Health. 2016;28(6):1073-1089.doi:10.1177/0898264315618921

  1. Kalmbach DA, Anderson JR, Drake CL. The impact of stress on sleep: Pathogenic sleep reactivity as a vulnerability to insomnia and circadian disorders.J Sleep Res. 2018;27(6):e12710.doi:10.1111/jsr.12710

  1. Singh M, Liao P, Kobah S, Wijeysundera DN, Shapiro C, Chung F. Proportion of surgical patients with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea.Br J Anaesth. 2013;110(4):629-636.doi:10.1093/bja/aes465



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