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Summer may make sleep problems worse

Monday - 7/7/2014, 4:33am  ET

SLEEPNESS.jpg
The extra sunlight can be problematic for your sleep patterns. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- It's the dog days of summer, and for many people with sleep problems, this may be the toughest time of the year.

It's all because of the link between sleep and sunlight.

"Light is a strong factor in all of our sleep," says Dr. Neal Maru, a sleep specialist with Integrated Neurology Services in Northern Virginia.

"It is one of the ways our brains know when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep."

But it is more than just a natural alarm clock waking some of us up at, say, 5:45 on a summer morning. When the body is exposed to a lot of light, it cuts production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.

"The more sunlight and light in general that we are exposed to during the day -- that can impact our brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep," says Maru.

He tells some of his patients suffering from insomnia to avoid bright light late in the day. Other sleep experts go as far as to encourage patients to wear sunglasses in the early evening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says healthy adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a day. School-aged kids need at least 10.

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