If You're Having Trouble Sleeping Lately, It May Be Thanks To The Summer Solstice

by Julia Guerra

You know summer’s been a long time coming when someone who typically can’t take the heat (me) is dreaming of boardwalk strolls, poolside reading, and hours on hours of daylight. In case you weren’t already aware, Thursday, June 21, is the longest day of the year, marking the official start of the summer season you’ve all been waiting for. And while that’s great and all — I mean, who couldn’t use a little more sunshine? — when there’s more daylight to be enjoyed, your sleep cycle kind of goes off-kilter. In other words, the summer solstice affects your sleep because the more light you’re exposed to, the less melatonin your body produces, and if your body’s running low on the hormones that regulate your sleep cycle, then there’s a good chance you won’t be clocking in the same amount of sleep you would, say, during winter.

Think about all the times between mid-November and about March that you ditched plans with your friends or SO to take cat naps on your living room couch. That, my friends, was definitely because the winter solstice, aka the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter, had the sun going down at like, 3 p.m., which threw your body for a major loop. Suddenly, crawling into bed at 7 p.m. sounded much more appealing than joining your best girlfriends for dinner karaoke, and that’s because the less time you spend basking in the sun, the lower your vitamin D and energy levels slink down. Well, the summer solstice does just the opposite, for better or for worse.

The summer solstice will likely affect your sleep patterns to some extent, all because of the amount of sunlight you're going to be exposed to over the next few months.

Summer nights are everything — after all, why do you think people write songs about them? When the sun is shining through dinner, through dessert, and the temperature outside is warm enough to just throw on a dress and go, who wouldn’t want to soak it all in until sunset forces bedtime on you like a nagging parent? The desire to stay awake and go outside is powerful, but it’s also scientific, and that’s because your body is more connected to the sun than you might realize.

Even if you don’t necessarily buy into the spiritual aspects of the summer solstice, as far as Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, Dr. Sujay Kansagra, is concerned, there’s really no getting around it: Earth’s 24-hour cycle has a direct effect on the human body. In fact, Kansagra tells Elite Daily the timing of sunlight “is the main force behind our internal clock.” When your eyes see and recognize sunlight, he explains, “your brain is signaled to wake up,” while the darkness encourages melatonin production, making you feel sleepy and signaling it’s time for bed. During the summer, you’re exposed to a lot of sunlight, which is fabulous if you’re on vacation, but it’s not so great if the lack of darkness starts to mess with your sleep cycle, causing you to feel groggier when you have to go to work in the morning.

The worst of it, though, comes and goes with the summer solstice, Kansagra says. Eventually throughout the season, your body will adapt, just like it did during the winter, when sunlight was limited to only a few hours a day. Just remember: The first week or so of summer is always the most difficult, because it’s an adjustment for your circadian rhythm (aka that internal clock Kansagra referred to that controls when you go to bed at night, and when you wake up in the morning).

But if that doesn't bring you any comfort, think of it this way: When you travel to a different time zone, your body assumes it’s still on its normal schedule. It’s because of this misalignment, Kansagra tells Elite Daily, that “you may have to sleep and wake at times you are not accustomed,” and that can be a disaster for your sleep cycle. Over time, though, your body will adjust once it becomes more familiar with how the sun’s operating. Trust me, it all works out.

It can take days for your sleep cycle to find its rhythm again, but fortunately, there are some tricks you can try to make the transition a bit smoother.

Listen, I may be an early riser, but your girl still needs her beauty sleep. Even if you’re not necessarily the type of person who follows that whole “early to bed, early to rise” rule of thumb, everyone should be clocking in six to eight hours of sleep regardless, and that can be hard when the sun is shining and the temptation to stay up a little longer is just too real. Luckily, you don’t have to just clench your eyes shut and hope for sleep to take over if it’s still light outside around the time you’re headed to bed. According to experts, there are a few strategies to consider.

First, let’s talk about what you can do outside the bedroom to ensure a good night’s rest. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a NightFood advisory board member, you’re going to have trouble falling asleep if you’re not tired — full stop. It makes sense, right? So, in order to help yourself feel a bit sleepier by the time you should be getting under the covers, Breus suggests taking full advantage of the extra sunlight by making sure you get a good workout in that day. This will challenge your muscles, tire them out, and as a result, improve your sleep quality. Just make sure, Dr. Nate Watson, SleepScore Labs advisory board member adds, that you aren’t exercising too late that night, because doing so could actually backfire and leave you tossing and turning.

Now, as far as bedroom decor goes, Chris Brantner, a certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, tells Elite Daily the key to going to bed on time during the summer solstice is getting a handle on how much light you’re exposed to in your home, and more specifically, your sleep space. “Blackout curtains and sleep masks work wonders,” he says, adding it’s also important that you give your eyes a break from all forms of technology at least an hour or so before bed, because sunlight on top of the blue light that comes from your screens is definitely not going to help your body or mind wind down.

In addition to decor, the sounds in your bedroom are also essential if you want to set the right mood, and one way to do that, experts from Adaptive Sound Technologies tell Elite Daily, is to either invest in a sound machine, or, at the very least, create a soothing playlist to lull you to sleep. “Adding a calm sound such as white noise or fan sounds in your bedroom can be helpful,” the experts say, but they add that it’s important to think of this ambient noise as just one part of a complete night routine. This way, your body and mind will be totally prepared to lie down and fall asleep on time.