Lying down in the sun—whether in a hammock, on a beach towel, or in a comfy, reclining deck chair—will give most people the overwhelming urge to nod off. If you’re one of the 40 percent of Americans who doesn’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, you’re likely already feeling drowsy just thinking about that scenario. Combine that with the warm rays and perhaps a margarita, and you’ll be headed to dreamland before you can say, “Pass me the sunscreen.”
Speaking of sunscreen, make sure that you slather it on before falling asleep. From a sleep perspective, it’s perfectly fine to take a midday snooze in the sun. In fact, it’s recommended, as long as you don’t sleep for too long and don’t nap too late in the day. Even just a 30-minute nap can help reverse the negative impacts of a bad night’s sleep, give your immune system a boost, lower tension, and improve your mood. However, in terms of skin health, falling asleep in the sun can have serious consequences.
Sunburns and even a suntan dramatically increase your risk of skin cancer. Protect yourself by applying a sunscreen that contains SPF 15 or higher from head to toe before your in-the-sun siesta and reapply it often—at least every two hours, and more often if you go swimming. And if you’re sunbathing between 10:00am and 4:00pm when the sun is strongest, limit how much time you spend in the sun and switch to a shady area when you get overheated.
Another potential health problem that’s linked to lying in the sunshine is dehydration, so always keep a glass of ice water nearby and sip on it regularly. Keep in mind that lying in the sun can tire you out, so you may not want to make plans after your day at the beach. Also, consider wearing sunglasses and/or a hat or visor to protect your eyes from the harsh sunlight if you’re lying on your back.
The bottom line: Feel free to fall asleep in the sun, but do so wisely. And, ideally, sleep near a buddy outdoors who can give you a nudge if you start to turn slightly pink!