Sleep-deprived? Blame the summer solstice

If the short summer nights are leaving you sleep-deprived, you’re not alone.

'Summer vacation exists for a reason. June is always going to be a struggle'

The extended daylight hours can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. (Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab/Shutterstock)

If the short summer nights are leaving you sleep-deprived, you're not alone.

As the summer solstice approaches this Friday, Edmontonians who are more accustomed to months of dreary winter darkness are savouring some of the longest days of the year.

The added sunshine of the season can wreak havoc on your body's natural slumber schedule, said Dr. Atul Khullar, an Edmonton-based psychiatrist who specializes in sleep management.

"Light is a big driver of our sleep clock — our circadian rhythm, its fancy biological name," Khullar said in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.  

"The more light you get later in the day, you will tend to go to bed later.

"Summer vacation exists for a reason. June is always going to be a struggle."

After a long brutal winter, Edmontonians are likely keen to enjoy the long summer evenings with late night barbecues and baseball games, but burning the candle at both ends will eventually leave you feeling burned out.

The long days can be especially tough on people who are forced to rise well before the regular nine-to-five shift, Khullar said.

Late nights and early mornings can be a brutal combination.

"Any little bit of light can be extremely disruptive when you're trying to live outside your normal body clock, which a lot of us are forced to do for four to five months a year in this city, " said Khullar, who serves as the medical director of MedSleep, a sleep clinic in south Edmonton.

"It's difficult because you have to live your life."

In the battle for bedtime, a little preparation can go a long way, Khullar said.  

Maintaining darkness in the bedroom is key. Khullar recommends black-out curtains or blinds.

If you are going to be out in the sun for most of the day, UV reflective sunglasses can help trick your brain into thinking it's time for some shut-eye.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can also combat summer insomnia.

Otherwise, the lack of sack time may sneak up on you, Khullar warns.

If you are catching up on weekends, you're probably not getting enough sleep, he said.

"The rule of thumb is, most people are a little bit sleep deprived," he said.  

"We have to take care of our sleep just like you take care of your diet, just like you take care of your stress level and often sleep is the one thing that goes by the wayside."


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