Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are many reasons people move to Alaska. The Frontier State offers solitude, epic landscapes, close-knit communities, and no state income tax! If you’re considering moving here, many things are waiting for you to explore and discover.
But, before you can fully enjoy Alaska, you must overcome two things: the cold and the extreme time cycles. In this guide, you'll be learning how to adjust to the state's winter and summer hours.
Why Does Alaska Experience Long Days Sometimes?
Alaska's day-and-night cycle is pretty inconsistent. During the summer solstice, there are days when the sun never sets. There are also months when the days are so short you hardly get to glimpse the sun. What causes this?
It's nothing magical, to be honest. Alaska sits at high latitude. Because of the Earth's axial tilt, sunlight basks the region 24/7 when it's tilted towards the sun during the summer. The opposite happens during the winter months. In short, the state’s location causes the absurdity of Alaska's seasons.
"Summer days in Alaska have nearly 24 hours of sunshine. You may need to invest in some serious blackout curtains to get any sleep."
How Can You Cope-Up With This?
Twenty-four hours of sunlight might not seem like a big deal until you get to experience it yourself. Most people's body clocks correlate with the time of the day. When night falls and darkness creeps in, your mind will tell you to rest. But, if the day itself doesn't follow the standard cycle, you’ll have a hard time falling asleep.
Surprisingly, Alaskans love this sunlit season of the year. They even play outdoor games or hike around at midnight. But, for someone who just moved here, it can be a challenging experience.
Don't worry! Here are some tips to help you adjust and get your much-needed sleep during the long days of summer:
- Install blackout curtains throughout your home. Even if it's bright outside, this doesn't change the fact that it's 11:00 PM. Pull down your curtains to emulate the experience that nighttime is here.
- Be wary about SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs when seasonal changes impact a person's quality of life. The effects might be subtle, but it usually causes people to become moodier. It can lead to depression when left untreated. Share your thoughts with someone, and accept therapy if necessary.
- Go out and play. Oh, come on. The sun's out there, and you're just going to spend your day watching TV? What a waste. Grab your gear and do some outdoor activities to expend your energy. How is this a good thing? Well, the more exhausted you are, the more likely you'll sleep soundly at night.
Now, below are some advice on how to cope up with shorter days of winter:
- Ensure your home has the proper insulation. Not only are the days shorter, but winters in Alaska can also reach as low as 20 to −10 °F. You don't want the cold creeping into your home.
- Socialize as much as you can. Thanks to the long nights, it's easy to snuggle in your bed the whole time. But, this can negatively impact your health. Keep your social life going. Go to restaurants, attend church, or simply talk with your neighbors.
- Make every ray of sunlight count. During the fleeting moments that the sun is out, capture every minute of it. Adjust your schedule to have time to go out on walks (with your snowshoes, of course) during the daylight hours.
- Enjoy the winter. There's no use getting gloomy over the cold. Some people don't ever experience snow as thick as in Alaska. You can go ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, or have a snowball fight with your kids.
- Get regular checkups. Lack of sunlight can cause Vitamin D deficiency. Make occasional trips to your doc so that he can provide supplements to keep your body healthy and strong.
Prepare to be shocked on your first summer in Alaska, especially if you're from the south. It's natural and is usually not something to worry about. Give it a year or two, and you'll soon be enjoying the 2-month night-less summer cycle.
"Winters in Alaska are cold and dark. This time of year can be the hardest adjustment for those who need their sun!"
The Bottom Line
Alaska is a beautiful state with a lot of things you won't find elsewhere. Adjusting to the seasons can be a challenge, but it's not a deal-breaker. All you need is to learn how to manage your time, appreciate the sun, and embrace the changes brought by your new life here. Enjoy The Last Frontier!
Getting sleep during Alaskan Summers
But you shouldn't worry too much about disruptions to your circadian rhythm. With a few sleep tips, you will more than be able to withstand the midnight sun, and even come to love and accept it like Alaska's year-round residents do.
Here are a couple of tips to remember when visiting the Last Frontier:
- If you're only visiting for a short time, try and keep your sleep/wake cycles as close to your home time zone as possible. By staying relatively close to your home time, you will avoid having to adjust to Alaska time, without having to adjust back to your home time after your short trip.
- If staying for longer than a weekend, start adjusting your sleep/wake schedule to match that of your destination. For instance, if you are traveling west to reach Alaska, start staying up a little later and waking a little later each day until you are in-sync with Alaska time. If traveling east to Alaska, go to bed and wake a little earlier until on AK Standard Time.
- Try to avoid the daylight in the evenings close to bedtime, and get exposure to light early in the morning. As stated before, light exposure helps regulate your sleep/wake cycles and getting or avoiding light at key times of the day can go a long way to keeping your sleep patterns healthy.
- Make sure that the bedroom you are staying in has dark curtains or blinds to keep the extra light out of the room. In a pinch, thumb-tacking a blanket over the window can work just as well.
- If sleeping in a bright room, RV, or in a tent under the midnight sun, wear a sleep mask to bed to keep the light from disturbing your sleep.
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. We know, you're on vacation, so a nightcap is probably in order. However, while alcohol can make initiating sleep easier, it also causes you to have disturbed sleep and wake frequently in the night.
- And finally, just because you can stay up past midnight to enjoy all the wonders of Alaska, doesn't necessarily mean you should. Unless of course, you're attending the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game played by the Alaska Gold-panners, in which case staying up past midnight to watch a ball game played without artificial light is perfectly acceptable (and even encouraged).
So there you have it, a few summer sleep tips for your visit to Alaska this summer. We can't wait to have you visit our beautiful state and share with you the wonders of the midnight sun.