The Fourth of July, in our home, represents the holiday to show that summer is really here. While in Arizona it is usually pretty hot by July (about 110 degrees or so), we usually get out of town to beat the heat at the beach!
At the beach, not only do I tend to sleep even better than normal, many of the people I meet tend to tell me about how well they are sleeping here. Sitting in the cool breeze, listening to the ocean and watching my kids surf and build sand castles, I thought about why everyone seems to sleep better at the beach. Here are my thoughts on the phenomenon:
1. The environment. Remember you are on vacation. This in and of itself is a time for relaxation (hopefully) and a change of sleep environment (one which lacks the reminders of your daily stress) certainly helps set the tone for more relaxation and usually better sleep.
2. The schedule. Many of my patients tell me that they have a tendency to sleep in on vacation, thus catching up on their much-needed rest and reducing their sleep deprivation.
3. The heat. Being out in the sun all day always makes people sleepy. Why? Well, it may be because of the slight rise in core body temperature. Remember an increase in body temp will cause a subsequent fall and that can be a signal to the brain to release melatonin — the key that starts the engine for sleep.
4. The sounds. Remember ocean sounds are the only documented sounds that have been shown to help with sleep. Try sleeping with the window slightly open to hear the ocean.
5. The activity. Most people at the beach are doing one of many activities of a physical nature. I was inspired to go for an early morning run, not to mention lugging all the beach paraphernalia, setting up the umbrella, swimming, tennis, you name it. There are so many activities to choose from. And it is great to be able to exercise, which we know can help promote better sleep.
6. The weather. Not only may the heat help with sleep, but the barometric pressure could be helpful as well. While there is little data yet (one or two studies), my theory is that the changes to sea level affect the body and in fact, help with sleep onset and sleep continuity.
7. The light. Let’s face it, being out in the sun during the day is one of the best ways to reset your internal biological clock, which helps regulate your sleep cycle.
So there you have it, my seven reasons for better sleep at the beach. Whatever the reason, my prescription is for anyone, if they can, get out to the beach and get some great sleep.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™