Since today is the longest day of the year, it seems appropriate to discuss circadian rhythm and the role that daylight plays in our sleep cycle.
Circadian rhythm is, at its most basic, the 24-hour wake and sleep cycle your body follows based on night/dark and day/light. It’s a lot more complex than that, of course, with your pineal gland releasing melatonin at nighttime and a whole host of other hormones and chemicals involved, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll keep it general.
So what happens when your daylight cycle has wild fluctuations, as it does here in Alaska?
Not surprisingly, your circadian rhythm can get out of whack. When it’s light out all night, it is difficult to fall and stay asleep, and you may feel “tired but wired.” On the opposite end is Alaskan winters, where it is barely light out – in December and January, you might feel like a zombie.
There are ways to balance your circadian rhythm with the madly fluctuating daylight. In winter, a full-spectrum light box helps stimulate daylight, while in summer black-out curtains or a sleeping mask (and a regulated bedtime) help block the sun. Keeping a regular schedule year-round will help keep your rhythm stable, which in turn will keep you healthier.