In the northern hemisphere, it’s solstice. We’re experiencing our longest days of the year. The sun shining way past bedtime makes sleep a challenge. How the heck do we get some sleep during this season?
A more important question is this: how do we get the kids to sleep when the sun is still shining?
It’s a challenge for certain. Even when it’s dark and the sun isn’t shining, when it’s summer there are fireflies to chase, ball games to play, jumping rope in the street because school is out.
I’ve made the mistake of equating “dark with sleep” as a parent and an educator. It’s a natural mistake. For centuries human beings rose with the sun and went to sleep at sundown. We had food to grow, animals to care for. No takeout or movies and certainly not binge-watching.
Our very survival depended on sleeping when the sun went down, and the stars came out. Naturally, we associate dark with sleep. It’s often suggested that we go camping, allowing our bodies to sync with the rhythms of natural light and dark to reboot our sleep patterns naturally.
And special nights like solstices – when the sun is shining almost until morning in some parts of the world – are equated with staying up all night and making mischief.
Then the invention of the electric light bulb changed everything.
If you’re a bit of a history nerd, you might enjoy this brief history of the light bulb from the Live Science site.
Confession moment: as much as I recognize the internet and screens have a damaging effect on our sleep, conversation, mindfulness, and general productivity, I can still get lost on sites like Live Science or this one – devoted to old Christmas tree lights . Check out those vintage light sets!
These pleasant distractions highlight how we can easily get off schedule when it comes to sun shining, sleep, life’s rhythms. Indulging in them doesn’t solve the problem of how we sleep when the sun is still shining.
Those who live on or near the equator have pretty even days when it comes to the sun shining and balancing their sleep. Sunlight and dark remain at roughly twelve hours each. Latitude determines the length of day as explained in this article.
We look to our neighbors in the northern and southern hemispheres for answers. They experience what might be considered an “imbalance” during summer and winter months: The Midnight Sun in Scandinavia, or White Nights in Russia. The Arctic and Antarctic circles both experience Polar Nights where it is dark for as long as siz months.
The solutions to getting some sleep when the sun is still shining work. However, they’re not very exciting.
1. Keep a consistent bedtime
As much as possible, stick to the same lights out time that works during the school year. It’s worth meeting this challenge. A summer vacation filled with memories of squabbles because kids and parents are sleep deprived, isn’t much of a vacation.
2. Make the bedroom sleep-friendly
During seasons when the sun is shining way past your child’s bedtime, be sure to get curtains that block out the light. Follow the steps in this blog post to make bedrooms as sleep-friendly as possible.
3. Expose yourself to sunlight early in the day, and dim the lights at night
Exposure to sunlight early in the morning helps the body to regulate melatonin naturally.
4. Eat with sleep in mind
Don’t think of sticking with your family rituals and routines as a joy killer. Think of it as a way to truly enjoy all that this new season has to offer.
The Get Your Sleep On Summit can help. Dr. Laura Markham, Dr. Robert Rosenberg, and Dana Obleman share their expertise on sleep and parenting. It’s easy to prioritize sleep when you have the knowledge. It’s free and you can sign up by going HERE.