Friday marks this year's summer solstice — the longest day of the year. It's a thrilling prospect for some, but for those already grappling with sleep anxiety, it's yet another road block to getting a good night's sleep. Light is a key player in setting up our circadian rhythm, which controls sleep patterns.
"There's a tiny little gland called the pineal gland that secretes a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin drops our body temperature, makes us drowsy, relaxes our muscles. The melatonin secretion happens when it starts to get dark," Dr. Tara Narula explained on "CBS This Morning." "So you can imagine in the summertime when it gets darker later, it means later secretion of melatonin. It gets lighter earlier. You're not secreting it as long through the night and so that means less sleep."
Here are some ways you can set yourself up for a good night's rest — even on the longest day of the year:
Practice good sleep hygiene
- Keep a consistent bedtime.
- Avoid food and alcohol before bed.
- Turn off your screens about an hour before bed.
- If you are going to be using screens, utilize a blue light filter (blue light can prevent melatonin secretion).
Keep your room like a cave
- Minimize light as much as you can — even light from the hall outside your door can be disruptive.
- Dim lights before bedtime.
- Keep temperature between 60 and 68 degrees.
Does melatonin work?
- Melatonin is a supplement, not a drug regulated by the FDA.
- It has shown effectiveness for those with jet lag and people who work overnight shifts.
- It hasn't been studied in the long term but in the short term, Narula said, seems to be safe.
- It can help you get to bed about seven minutes earlier than you normally would.
Are sleep medications safe?
- First try to figure out what's behind your sleep issues.
- Drugs aren't meant to be used long term, typically designed to be used in conjunction with cognitive therapy for six to eight weeks.
- Beware of side effects: "In April, on certain drugs like Ambien, Lunesta because there are sleep-related behaviors that can happen like sleep walking, sleep-driving, drowning, and there have been deaths associated," Narula said.