Sunglasses At Night

Smart sleep hygiene can help insomnia sufferers during the longest days of the year

The summer sun can fool many of us, staying above the horizon long after we’ve finished dinner and making us wonder if the clocks are set right. For those who suffer from insomnia, the late hours of daylight are an extra obstacle in the pursuit of good sleep. Pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist Obaid Rehman, MD, believes that sleep hygiene, a set of habits that one cultivates to ensure restful sleep, is the best solution for insomnia no matter what the time of year.
 
“First, have a regular bedtime and wake-up time that allows enough time for sleep,” Rehman says. “Second, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals before bedtime. Daytime naps and late-evening exercise should also be avoided by those who have trouble falling asleep.”

“Wearing sunglasses in the late afternoon, and even into the evening if necessary, can help you avoid bright light before bedtime during the summer,” Rehman adds.
 
Turning off your TV or computer—in fact, keeping those devices out of your bedroom entirely—is another important aspect of good sleep hygiene. Maintaining a dark, quiet, and cool environment with effective shades or blinds is necessary not only for helping you to fall asleep but also to stay asleep.
 
As troublesome as the late-setting sun might be, it is not a cause of insomnia. Dr. Rehman notes that there are several underlying causes of this sleep disorder, some of which can be related to age. Younger people often ignore, or haven’t learned, the good sleep habits that Dr. Rehman and other sleep experts recommend. Teenagers are also often at risk for delayed sleep phase syndrome, or DSPS. With DSPS, the timing of the sleep is the problem—a person may sleep soundly and receive the benefits of good rest, but the late-night schedule doesn’t match with school or work.  

Older individuals are more at risk for advanced sleep phase syndrome, or ASPS, in which the patient feels the need to go to bed early in the evening, often before 8 p.m., and then wakes up at a very early morning hour such as 3 a.m.
 
Dr. Rehman, who serves as the Medical Director for St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Center for Sleep Disorders, warns that stress, anxiety, and depression can cause insomnia. Certain medications and supplements can also affect sleep. People with insomnia should consult with their physician to help uncover and treat any hidden causes of their inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.