In Alaska, sleep patterns are something that is hard to maintain without some extra thought and effort. The light situation literally swings from one extreme to the other in terms of sunlight or lack thereof. In the winter months, it’s so easy to sleep all the time and do very little. However, in the summer months, it can be extremely difficult to sleep due to up to 19 hours of daylight around the solstice.
The Impact Of Sunlight On Your Mood And Energy
It’s extremely important to note that sunlight has a direct impact on the human psyche. Lack of light will bring down our moods and reduce our energy levels. Some people experience this so strongly that they get depressed every winter, even if they live in a place that experiences more inclement weather. This condition's clinical name is seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
On the other hand, excess sunlight will stimulate your body and brain. Essentially, sunlight is an environmental cue to our bodies that it’s time to be awake and active. This is why even having all your lights on in your home at night can prevent you from getting to sleep or feeling tired. Our bodies won’t produce melatonin when exposed to light, and this is the hormone that prepares our bodies for sleep.
Changing Your Habits To Sleep Better
Many Alaskans feel a distinct shift in their moods and energy levels between winter and summer. Some people tend to become hypomanic in the summer months, packing in more activities and sleeping far less than they do in winter. This massive swing in behavior and sleeping patterns can be incredibly detrimental to your long-term health. It’s important to regulate your sleeping habits so that your mood and energy levels are more stable throughout the year.
You can do this by:
Setting Your Alarm Every Day
Just because the sun is up far earlier in the summer, doesn’t mean you have to be too.
The key to creating any good habit, including sleeping habits, is consistency. Set your alarm for the same time every day and your body will get used to waking up at that time, regardless of what the sun is doing.
The same goes for going to sleep. Try to do this at the same time every day so that your mind and body can learn your routine and get comfortable with it.
Creating A Dark Space for Summer
We’ve already looked at how the light can stop you from getting to sleep. Essentially, light indicates to your brain that it is still daytime, and your body won’t start producing melatonin until the world starts getting darker. Even in the middle of summer in Alaska, you need to find a way to trick your body into thinking that the sun is going down. You can do this with blackout curtains, blinds, and dimmer lights in your room.
As you start reaching your routine bedtime, move into your darker space and start bringing down the lights. This will simulate the sun going down and the body can prepare for sleep time. You can also simulate the sun coming up in the morning during the winter so that your body is prepared for the day.
Avoiding Blue Light Before Bed
Of all the shades on the light spectrum, blue light is the most detrimental to our sleep patterns. It’s commonly found in screens and monitors for computers, televisions, tablets, and smartphones. If you’re going to look at these devices for a long period of time during the day, or if you like to check your phone just before you go to bed, consider getting yourself some blue light glasses. They have a coating on them that cuts out the light from screens.
You can also wear sunglasses when out in the evening hours during the Alaskan summer. This will help your body to think things are getting darker and decent sunglasses will cut out the blue rays that are detrimental to sleep.
Doing Your Cardio Exercise In The Morning
It can be extremely tempting to exercise at any hour during the long summer days, even if you require a mobility aid to do so. You can easily go out for a walk, run, or cycle at 10 pm because there’s still enough light to do so. However, exercise before bedtime, especially cardiovascular exercise, is counterproductive when you’re trying to establish good sleep patterns.
Getting your heart rate up tells your body to release endorphins. These hormones energize your body and make you feel awake. Exercising after 6 pm will prevent your body from settling down and relaxing to sleep. It’s far better to do any high-cardio workouts in the morning so that you’re energized for the day. If you want to exercise at night, try something more calming, like yoga or Pilates.
Trying Not To Nap
Sleep patterns are all about routine. You need to train your body to be awake when it suits you and tired when you want to go to bed. By napping during the day, you break that pattern and tell your body that it’s alright to sleep outside of normal night hours.
It’s tempting to catch a quick nap if you haven’t slept well the night before. But this will undo all of your hard work when trying to build good habits around sleep and nighttime.
What To Do When Visiting Alaska
It can be incredibly jarring to visitors who are accustomed to what is considered normal daylight hours when arriving in Alaska. Especially in the extremes of winter or summer.
If you are just visiting for a short time—less than a week—you’re better off just trying to stick as close to your normal sleeping times as possible in your usual time zone. If you’re staying for a longer period, start adjusting your sleep patterns to match your destination before you leave, and then keep moving slowly once you arrive.
Sleep is essential for proper brain and body function. Do not pass on excellent sleep, no matter where you live. Alaskans, call Alaska Sleep Clinic today if nothing you have tried has led to better sleep in your life. We are ready to help you correctly diagnose and treat any sleep issue.