Alaskan Summer Transition Adjustment Difficulty - Factors
Alaska’s big. This hardly needs be said. It’s particularly big from North to south: over 1,300 miles. The difference is this: the southern parts of Alaska have summer light transitions that are uncomfortable but not drastically different than much of the norther part of the lower 48. From Anchorage on up, the transition ranges from drastic to as extreme as it gets.
How much you have to prepare for your transition, and how much it may affect you, largely depends upon:
- How far north you are
- How sensitive you are to light
- Perhaps most importantly, what existing measures you have taken to normalize your circadian rhythm during the winter
On the last bullet point if you have been diligent about any of the following, the transition will likely be easier:
- Using light therapy
- Maintaining pre-sleep rhythm
- Having consistent exercise and eating/drinking habits
- Vitamin D therapy
Why Alaskan Winters Can Be Bad for Sleep
Contrary to what you might initially expect, the long darkness is not always conducive to sleep. In Alaska’s dark winters, many people regularly struggle with:
- Circadian rhythm disorders
Why? For one, the extreme darkness can profoundly affect us in many ways:
- Emotionally – struggle with seasonal depression?
- Physiologically – get a lot less activity
- Habitually – many of your living and work habits will be entirely different in summer/winter
- Sociologically – notice that you start to spend a lot of time closer to home during the winter?
Secondly, melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep) responds to light/darkness changes. Lacking light means lacking those cues and changes.
Some people are very good about maintaining consistent social lives, habits, and emotional equilibrium, but many of us aren’t. In all cases, such changes can make it hard to sleep normally.
Why Alaskan Summers Can Be Bad for Sleep
The transition to summer in AK can lead to insomnia symptoms
Why Alaskan summers would be bad for sleep is more obvious: lots of light. Like the extreme darkness, lots of light can inhibit normal melatonin production, which in turn can disrupt your circadian rhythm.
Unfortunately, lots of light also has the added effect of being physically disruptive for sleep. You have to physically try and block the light out of your room, and, psychologically, it always feels like daytime.
Furthermore, there is an odd pressure many of us feel to get so much done in the summer because we have been cooped up all winter – Alaskan’s who are not “winter people” may struggle with this more.
Ways to Adjust Sleep During Alaskan Summer Transition
The transition from summer to winter can be particularly hard for several reasons: lots of potential for change in habits, activities, and socializing. Also, your circadian rhythm cycle may have adjusted to the environment (darkness) and is now required to respond to different cues.
Some ways to help adjust are:
- Use light therapy in winter and early spring, until the actual light schedule matches that of your therapy regimen
- When you stop using light therapy, start using blackout curtains in your room
- Invest in good blinds to use in common rooms you spend time in to be used in the evening
- Try and get as much fresh air (walks are good!) as possible after work
- Try and be aware of how your habits change during the winter-summer transition, and ease yourself into the “summer norm”
- Importantly, try and keep the same sleep schedule and routine
The reality is that seasonal insomnia or sleep disorders may be very difficult for you to prevent or mitigate. If you have tried everything and are still struggling, feel free to talk to us.