For thousands of years, the longest day of the year has been celebrated by people around the world as the summer solstice or Midsummer. This year, the sunny cause for revelry falls on June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere, and is recognized as the unofficial start to our hottest season, even though outdoor temperature gauges around the country have been telling us the heat is already well under way.
Some of us might find the summer solstice to be a great cause for kicking up our heels and having a gathering for family and friends, but others of us might not be too happy to see it roll around again, thanks to the fact that we can look forward to having almost 16 hours of light that day.
Whether you’re looking forward to Midsummer or not, there are plenty of ways that it is actually beneficial, from having extra time to get some gardening done, to more hours by the side of the pool.
But did you also know that the summer solstice is the perfect time to reset your body clock and get better sleep the whole year round?
Let’s take a closer look at this ancient celebration and what it means for your day, night, and overall health and happiness…
How the Summer Solstice Affects Your Day
On the 21st of June this year, your morning might be starting hours earlier than it normally would, thanks to a sun that rises much sooner than it typically would. While this might sound like a drag, early daylight can help you to get a jumpstart on your day, and help you to take advantage of that additional sunshine that your body craves to keep you healthy.
Try opening your blinds or curtains a couple of hours earlier than you normally would to help cash in on the benefits of those extra rays. Vitamin D thrives in the sunshine, and bright natural light has been proven to kill off bad bacteria, lower cholesterol, and even put certain types of cancer into remission.
All of that extra daylight is also a great excuse for getting out and enjoying your summer to the fullest with your loved ones. And people have done just that for thousands of years during Midsummer, using the longest day of the year to celebrate everything from the potential of a bang-up harvest, the renewal of life and nature, and even fertility in some cultures.
What the Summer Solstice Means to Your Health
Almost 16 hours is a lot of daylight, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that all of those added rays can have an impact on your overall health and well-being. But just what kind of impact are we talking about here?
We already know that darkness is what triggers the production and release of melatonin, the hormone that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle and telling our bodies when it’s time to wind down for the day.
What does all of the added daylight hours that come with the summer solstice mean in terms of being able to get the sleep that we need to be healthy and happy?
Given that light plays such a vital role in regulating the body clock, does extended daylight affect the sleep-and-wake cycle? We know darkness triggers the release of melatonin, thereby telling the body it’s time to wind down. Can too little nighttime disrupt the process?
Health and sleep experts have shown that, in this age of alarm clocks and sleep technology, additional natural light exposure probably isn’t as big of a cause for concern as it might once have been, and that the summer solstice can actually make it easier for us to get our sleep schedules back on track.
Here’s what you need to know about sleep and the summer solstice:
- Don’t underestimate the power of the sun – Light is the number one factor in regulating your body clock, so be sure to keep that in mind by grabbing some rays while you can during the day, and doing your best to keep them out when it’s time to hit the hay.
- Big shifts in exposure to natural light causes issues – If you’re getting up before the sun rises Monday through Friday, and then sleeping in until noon on the weekends, your body won’t be able to make heads or tails out of the situation, and your body clock will be wonky. Be sure to get up and go to sleep around the same times, every day of the week, if you want to stay healthy (and sane).
- The summer solstice is the perfect time to reset your body clock – If you want to get yourself used to getting up earlier each morning, and turning in earlier each night, your best bet is to expose your body to as much morning light as you possibly can. Making use of the extra hours of sunlight during Midsummer is the ideal way to get started with your new sleep schedule.
Whether you’re celebrating the summer solstice with a backyard bonfire, a feast for family and friends, tending your garden, taking a yoga class, or taking the opportunity to reset your body clock on the longest day of the year, one thing is for sure – Midsummer is a great time to focus on improving your health and happiness by getting better sleep in the summer – and all year round!
If you feel you might have a sleep disorder, call and speak to one of Alaska Sleep Clinic's board-certified sleep specialists.