How to Deal With Alaska’s Endless Summer Light
For much of the summer, Alaska doesn’t really get dark. And that means some people have trouble falling asleep.
Depending upon your latitude, the sun might never set—or slip a few degrees below the horizon for a few hours between 10 pm and 2 am.
Such light is fabulous when you want to stay active. But heading to bed with sun shining in the window can be weird and disconcerting, if not plain difficult. Full spectrum sunshine naturally stimulates wakefulness in humans.
Alaskans have these effective tips
- First, enjoy it and don’t stress. The spectacle of the long days interrupted only by dusky twilight is one of Alaska’s most exotic and interesting features. Many Alaskans embrace the season—launching a hike or adventure after dinner, gardening until midnight, or fishing all night. If you want to stay up, just do it! It’s regular life during the Far North summer.
- When you decide it’s time to sleep, darken the room. Some Alaskans tape foil, cardboard or heavy trash bags over windows, usually in their own residence. Light-blocking drapes and blackout curtains are common features provided by hotels and lodges. This step may be necessary to help small children settle for the night.
- Can’t block the light? Wear an eyeshade. Outdoor stores like REI sell several versions that feel soft and comfortable while fully blocking light from your eyes. A rolled-up scarf or bandana will also do the trick.
- Eyeshades and/or blackout drapes really work. Once your eyes are no longer exposed to daylight, it’s amazing how smoothly your body’s natural circadian rhythm will kick in about your regular bedtime and make you drowsy. It’s like magic.
- In fact, beware of oversleeping. Darkening the room, or wearing an eyeshade, has one downside. It can be so effective in promoting natural nighttime sleepiness that some people are slow to wake up. Remember that you will not be directly aware of sunrise and dawn. Without that cue to rise and shine, it’s often easy to stay completely zonked out past regular wake-up time. If you’re a heavy sleeper, or especially tired from a succession of long days, consider setting an alarm.
What’s it going to be like?
- From Anchorage north to Fairbanks, you’ll experience a “midnight sunset” from May to June that shifts across the northern sky from west to east.
- North of the Arctic Circle—about 200 road miles north of Fairbanks—the sun doesn’t set on the June 21 solstice, and the sky barely dims at all during most of the summer.
- In Barrow, Alaska’s most northern community, the sun rises on May 10 and sets on August 2!
- It’s not just direct sunlight either. Civil twilight—the period between sunset and sunrise when it’s basically still full daylight outside—lasts even longer.
- From the Kenai Peninsula north, you will basically not see stars between May and the end of July.
For more information:
When might you bask in the true “Midnight Sun” or experience almost endless civil twilight—the period of near daylight after sunset and before sunrise? Check out our Daylight Calculator.