Sleep Challenges in Alaska: Winter
Alaska is a land of extremes, especially when it comes to the unique patterns associated with the cycle of day and night. When summer fades to fall and fall fades to winter, the sunlight fades out as well. With these intriguing patterns of day and night come sleep challenges for those who reside in the state. As a sleep technologist, especially if you live and work in Alaska, it’s vital to understand the sleep challenges of those living in “The Last Frontier” and be equipped with a few tips and tricks to getting a full night of sleep — even when the sun is shining bright at 3 a.m.
Why Is the Sun Always Shining During the Summer?
Alaska is closer to the Earth’s northernmost axis, bringing it much closer to the sun when the Earth tilts one way on its axis but much farther away when it tilts in the opposite direction. The tilting of the Earth’s axis causes what is known as a solstice.
During a solstice, the sun reaches its highest or lowest position in the sky, appearing to stand completely still in the eyes of astronomers. Because of its location on Earth, Alaska experiences both a summer and a winter solstice.
A summer solstice, commonly referred to as midsummer, occurs each year when one of the Earth’s poles experience a maximum tilt in the direction of the sun. This event occurs two times per year: once in the northern hemisphere and once in the southern hemisphere.
Depending on the hemisphere in which you reside, a summer solstice will occur on either June 20 or June 21. Often referred to as the “midnight sun,” the summer solstice in Alaska brings about days filled with rays of sunshine and little to no hours of nighttime.
A winter solstice, also known as a hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice, occurs when one of the Earth’s poles reaches a maximum tilt away from the sun. As with the summer solstice, this event occurs twice per year, one time in each hemisphere.
A winter solstice occurs on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22, bringing about shorter days and increased darkness. Individuals living in Alaska are thought to act as bears throughout the year, as they are on the go all summer long but tend to “hibernate” during the winter months.
Sleep Disorders in Alaska
The solstices have much more of an effect than just that on the environment surrounding Alaskans. They affect overall mood and health, impacting things like the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Sleep cycles are commonly affected by an environmental agent that provides a stimulus, setting or resetting a biological clock of an organism known as a zeitgeber. The environmental agent associated with the sleep cycle is the occurrence of light and dark. The extremes of light and dark environments that come with living in Alaska can disrupt the body’s natural ability to produce or stop producing the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate sleep, further making sleep in Alaska a challenge.
To learn more about winter sleep challenges in Alaska, read the full article in the 2021 Q3 issue of A2Zzz.
About Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT
Because of the implementation of his best practices of Implementing Inbound Marketing in its Medical Practice, he turned the once stagnant online presence of Alaska Sleep Clinic to that of "The Most Trafficked Sleep Center Website in the World" in just 18 months time. He is the President and CEO of inboundMed and enjoys helping sleep centers across the globe grow their business through his unique vision and experience of over 27 years in sleep medicine.