How the Summer Solstice Can Score You Better Sleep Year-Round
For thousands of years, the longest day of the year has been celebrated by people around the world as the summer solstice or Midsummer. This year, the sunny cause for revelry falls on June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere, and is recognized as the unofficial start to our hottest season, even though outdoor temperature gauges around the country have been telling us the heat is already well under way.
Some of us might find the summer solstice to be a great cause for kicking up our heels and having a gathering for family and friends, but others of us might not be too happy to see it roll around again, thanks to the fact that we can look forward to having almost 16 hours of light that day.
Whether you’re looking forward to Midsummer or not, there are plenty of ways that it is actually beneficial, from having extra time to get some gardening done, to more hours by the side of the pool.
But did you also know that the summer solstice is the perfect time to reset your body clock and get better sleep the whole year round?
Let’s take a closer look at this ancient celebration and what it means for your day, night, and overall health and happiness…
How the Summer Solstice Affects Your Day
On the 21st of June this year, your morning might be starting hours earlier than it normally would, thanks to a sun that rises much sooner than it typically would. While this might sound like a drag, early daylight can help you to get a jumpstart on your day, and help you to take advantage of that additional sunshine that your body craves to keep you healthy.
Try opening your blinds or curtains a couple of hours earlier than you normally would to help cash in on the benefits of those extra rays. Vitamin D thrives in the sunshine, and bright natural light has been proven to kill off bad bacteria, lower cholesterol, and even put certain types of cancer into remission.
All of that extra daylight is also a great excuse for getting out and enjoying your summer to the fullest with your loved ones. And people have done just that for thousands of years during Midsummer, using the longest day of the year to celebrate everything from the potential of a bang-up harvest, the renewal of life and nature, and even fertility in some cultures.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to join in on the summer solstice celebration…
How to Celebrate the Summer Solstice
People all around the world spend the longest day of the year celebrating the extra daylight through outdoor festivals and feasts, singing and dancing, and even visiting Stonehenge to take part in camping and live music at the most well-known prehistoric monuments in Europe.
But you don’t have to visit another country to join in on the revelry of the summer solstice. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your own backyard! Check out these fun and easy ways to celebrate Midsummer with your friends and family, right from the comfort of home.
Do Some Sunbathing
What better time to take a trip to the beach or pool than the longest day of the year? Just make sure to be mindful of the length of your exposure to the light and to wear some sunblock to make sure that you don’t get burned!
Spend Time in the Garden
Midsummer is traditionally a time for celebrating the growth of new plant life – why not continue the trend by spending some time encouraging new growth in your own backyard? You could start a new garden or spend some time tending one that you already have.
Break Out the Summer Decor
Christmas isn’t the only time of year that you can spruce up your home with some seasonal décor! Try adding some seaside or nature-themed decorations to the inside and outside of the house to help you revel in the season.
Host a Solstice Feast
Ancient cultures often celebrated the summer solstice with a massive all-day feast. Why not host your own smaller version for friends, family, and neighbors? Extra points if you eat in the great outdoors and serve locally-grown dishes!
Have a Backyard Bonfire
Adding a bonfire to the feast is a great way to up the celebratory ante – you can even have your own drum circle or karaoke event fireside. Just be sure to follow all local fire ordinances and keep your focus on fire safety, especially if there will be little ones taking part in the fiery fun.
Try a Bit of Yoga
Not only is the summer solstice the longest day of the year, and a reason to celebrate in its own right, it’s also been declared International Day of Yoga. That makes June 21st the perfect day to start some sun salutations or downward facing dogs.
Review and Renew Your Resolutions
While New Year’s Eve wasn’t the long ago, you might find that Midsummer is the perfect point on the calendar to review (and renew, if needs be!) your resolutions. You might even bring your friends or family in on this one and add it to your summer solstice celebration for the whole group.
Start Something New
Solstices are also the perfect time to let go of the old and start anew with any projects that you might have been keeping on the back burner. To cash in on the benefits of starting something new on the summer solstice, try making a list of everything you’ve been putting off doing, picking your top 3 projects, and putting an action plan to get them finished down on paper.
What the Summer Solstice Means to Your Health
Almost 16 hours is a lot of daylight, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that all of those added rays can have an impact on your overall health and well-being. But just what kind of impact are we talking about here?
We already know that darkness is what triggers the production and release of melatonin, the hormone that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle and telling our bodies when it’s time to wind down for the day.
What does all of the added daylight hours that come with the summer solstice mean in terms of being able to get the sleep that we need to be healthy and happy?
Given that light plays such a vital role in regulating the body clock, does extended daylight affect the sleep-and-wake cycle? We know darkness triggers the release of melatonin, thereby telling the body it’s time to wind down. Can too little nighttime disrupt the process?
Health and sleep experts have shown that, in this age of alarm clocks and sleep technology, additional natural light exposure probably isn’t as big of a cause for concern as it might once have been, and that the summer solstice can actually make it easier for us to get our sleep schedules back on track.
Here’s what you need to know about sleep and the summer solstice:
- Don’t underestimate the power of the sun – Light is the number one factor in regulating your body clock, so be sure to keep that in mind by grabbing some rays while you can during the day, and doing your best to keep them out when it’s time to hit the hay.
- Big shifts in exposure to natural light causes issues – If you’re getting up before the sun rises Monday through Friday, and then sleeping in until noon on the weekends, your body won’t be able to make heads or tails out of the situation, and your body clock will be wonky. Be sure to get up and go to sleep around the same times, every day of the week, if you want to stay healthy (and sane).
- The summer solstice is the perfect time to reset your body clock – If you want to get yourself used to getting up earlier each morning, and turning in earlier each night, your best bet is to expose your body to as much morning light as you possibly can. Making use of the extra hours of sunlight during Midsummer is the ideal way to get started with your new sleep schedule.
Top 9 Summer Solstice Sleep Tips
Now that you know what the summer solstice means for your day and your health, let’s talk about how you can use the longest day of the year to get better sleep year-round with these 9 tips for getting awesome sleep this summer.
1. Keep your windows open or your ceiling fans on during the day: Well-circulated air not only helps to keep you cool, it also helps you to stay oxygenated, and sleep better. You can also try keeping a window cracked in your bedroom at night, creating a cooling cross-breeze while you sleep.
2. Be sure to shut your blinds or curtains during the day: Keeping out natural light in the daytime will help keep your home cool and prevent rooms from overheating. You could also invest in some blackout blinds or curtains to cut down even further on unwanted heat in the house and also create the ideal cool, dark environment for sleep.
3. Trade in your winter bedding for something lighter: Trying to sleep on flannel sheets in the summer could be what’s causing you to toss and turn during those sultry nights of the hottest season. Invest in some cotton sheets to keep cool while you sleep.
4. Stick your sheets in the freezer for 5 minutes: If you find yourself really feeling the burn while trying to sleep in the summer, you can give yourself a cooling kick-start by chilling your sheets in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before bedtime.
5. Cut down on the layers: Making the switch to cotton PJs or sleeping in the buff can help you stay cool in the summer by reducing the amount of layers between you and the temperate air of your bedroom.
6. Stay hydrated during the day: Drinking plenty of the water during the day will help you keep cool while you’re out and about, and it will even continue to keep you refreshed well into the evening. You can also keep a glass of water by your bed, in case you wake up warm or parched during the night.
7. Say no to after-dinner coffee or cocktails: Both caffeine and alcohol have been shown to leave you dehydrated cause sleep disturbances, so be sure to keep them to a minimum in the summer, and abstain from either substance completely at least 3 hours before bedtime
8. Super-size your sleeping arrangements: If you sleep with a partner and find both of you are heating up too much at night, it might be time to upgrade to a larger size mattress. Often times, upgrading to a larger bed size can make all the difference in your ability to get a better night’s rest – summertime or not!
9. Upgrade your mattress: If it’s been awhile since you’ve had a new bed or you can’t seem to sleep, no matter what you try, it might be time to invest in your health and happiness with a memory foam mattress. Not only are they incredibly durable, but memory foam mattresses have been shown to help people sleep better in the summer by dispersing body moisture, keeping you cool and supported throughout the night.
Whether you’re celebrating the summer solstice with a backyard bonfire, a feast for family and friends, tending your garden, taking a yoga class, or taking the opportunity to reset your body clock on the longest day of the year, one thing is for sure – Midsummer is a great time to focus on improving your health and happiness by getting better sleep in the summer – and all year round!