Summer Sleep

by Doug Thorpe, PhD

Say the word out loud a couple of times. Feel your blood pressure drop and the muscles at the back of your neck relax. Summer is a time for slowing down, dropping the pace. School is out, vacation rolls around, church schedules ease, and fireflies put on their evening show while we enjoy a bowl of ice cream.

Summer is a time for catching up on all those things we’ve been intending to get to, like cleaning out closets or organizing the photos on our computer or watching DVDs of the movies we missed when they were in the theaters.

Summer should also be a time for catching up on sleep. The gentler rhythms of summer ought to provide us a chance to snooze away our accumulated sleep debt. But here Nature makes it difficult for us. Summer features the longest periods of daylight and the hottest temperatures of the year. Neither bright light nor hot, humid air are conducive to sleep.

For solid, restful sleep in the dog days of summer, follow these tips.

Find your ideal sleep temperature and make your bedroom match it. Since most bedrooms run too hot in summer, install a ceiling fan or a window air conditioner. Put a fan in the window to pull hot air out of upstairs bedrooms. Draw the blinds during the day to keep the bedroom dark and cool. Try sleeping in the basement where it’s cooler.

Unless you truly enjoy watching the sun rise, keep your bedroom dark. While you’re keeping the morning sun out, block the intrusion of noise as well. Between neighbors partying on their patio until the wee hours and birds in the oak tree announcing the first light in the sky, the period of quiet can get short some nights. If you can’t keep light and sound out of your bedroom, consider an eye mask and ear plugs. You’ll look like the Lone Ranger, but you’ll sleep like Rip VanWinkle.

Develop a pre-sleep routine. If you surf the web or answer email until you drop into bed your body has no time to ramp down from full-productivity mode. Wash your face, brush your teeth and put on your pajamas. By the time you’re done your body will get the hint and start shutting down.

Keep your wake-up time constant. If you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday, Monday morning will come as a rude shock, setting you up for a tired week. Give yourself an extra half-hour on weekends, or a full hour as a treat, but try for a steady sleep pattern.

Find a pillow that fits. The right pillow will hold your neck straight while you sleep. You’ll sleep better, you’ll snore less, and the cat will thank you.

Enjoy your rest.

During wide-awake hours Doug Thorpe sees clients at CPC’s Annandale and Metro Center offices. You can reach him at (703) 903-9696 extension 236.


Counseling staff with Center for Pastoral Counseling of Virginia have been helping people in northern Virginia and DC for more than 35 years. CPC has centers throughout Northern Virginia and in Washington, DC. Our counselors are fully accredited mental health professionals with integrated expertise in helping clients deal with spiritual and religious issues as well. CPC counselors are available upon request to provide presentations for your congregations or community organizations. Please call us at 703-903-9696 or see our website at

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