After a brutal winter, you're likely looking forward to the first official day of summer on June 21. However, for those struggling with sleep issues, longer days means less shut eye. If you're not in the know about seasonal sleep issues, there's a surprising way the summer solstice can affect your sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a common cause of insomnia and poor sleep quality is linked to endocrine dysfunction, which can worsen during the summer because your body produces less melatonin, a key hormone necessary for healthy sleep cycles.
If you've been going to bed at the same time every night but find yourself waking up earlier than usual due to the sun shining into your bedroom, you might already be feeling sleep deprived. This happens because melatonin production is dramatically affected when your eyes are exposed to sunlight, which is why you're waking up earlier than you'd like.
"Light cues trigger all kinds of chemical events in the body, causing changes in our physiology and behavior. For example, as evening approaches and the light in our environment dwindles, the hormone melatonin begins to rise and body temperature falls — both of which help us to become less alert and more likely to welcome sleep," the NSF noted on its website.
"With the help of morning light, melatonin levels are low, body temperature begins to rise, and other chemical shifts, such as an uptick in the activating hormone cortisol, occur to help us feel alert and ready for the day." Longer days means your body produces melatonin later in the evening, and shorter nights means it stops producing this sleep hormone earlier in the morning, which equals less sleep.
If you're already feeling the effects, you're not alone. "I never feel rested and you just feel miserable all day," Tiffany Rittenhouse, who works at a sleep center, told CBS News in Philadelphia about the extra daylight that's synonymous with summer. "As soon as I see the light, I’m up."
Long, warm days means you're likely more active than you are during the winter, which can lead to staying up later. While you might be able to sustain this schedule during the early days of summer, continuously waking up with the sun when you haven't had enough sack time can be lead to increased daytime sleepiness and depression, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
"Maintaining darkness in the bedroom at night may be a novel and viable option to prevent depression," study co-author Kenji Obayashi, a professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at Nara Medical University School of Medicine in Japan, told TIME magazine in an email.
If you want to lower your risk of summer insomnia and seasonal summer depression, you might want to turn your room into a cave, which is easy to do by investing in some blackout curtains or a good sleep mask.
"It's no surprise that light in the bedroom (as well as light peeking in from outside) has an impact on the quality of your sleep," the NSF explained. "Use darkening curtains or shades to keep your body in sleep mode until it's time to wake up and start the day."
If your bedroom is currently as bright as the surface of the sun, you can get some low-cost insulated blackout curtains on Amazon. Aside from blocking both natural and artificial light, blackout curtains can also keep stifling summer heat out of your bedroom.
The summer solstice should be a time of joy and renewal versus something that saps your energy. If your sleep is affected by the extra sunlight, a little preparation can go a long way toward ensuring you get enough sleep to be able to enjoy all the fun things you have planned for summer. Because, you have warm weather priorities.
Don't let the summer sleepies keep you from your unicorn pool float and rosé all day summer goals. After the dumpster fire of the last six months, a well rested and relaxing summer is the least you deserve. #TheMoreYouKnow