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What You Need to Know About the Summer Solstice and Sleep

We often see people waking up earlier due to sunlight exposure in bedrooms.

Deposit Photos
Source: Deposit Photos

The summer solstice is when the earth is tilted most toward the sun. More technically, it is when the planet's rotational axis is tilted the most toward the star it orbits (our Sun). It usually occurs in June (this year it’s June 21st). The actual summer solstice day is the longest, in terms of daylight, of the year, except in the North and South Pole where there is continuous daylight that can last for days or months.

It is all about light exposure. When the Earth is farthest from the sun, we get the least light. This affects sleep because light directly affects the production of melatonin. More light means less melatonin; less light, more melatonin. This can also have an effect on depression as well, also known as the winter blues. In fact, during the summer we often see people waking up earlier due to sunlight exposure in the bedrooms. This will have an effect on your biological circadian rhythm.

What to do?

1) Wear an eye mask to bed during the summer months. Keep the light out of your bedroom.

2) If you have blackout curtains, make sure they are closed.

3) Don’t go to bed hungry. My favorite before bedtime snack is called NightFood. Give it a try, they’re really delicious.

4) Make sure to take advantage of the extra sun and exercise to improve sleep quality.

Longer summer days also mean a hotter house and hotter sleeping conditions. If you just sleep hot or are experiencing signs of menopause, consider using a cooling pad to help cool down your bed and make sleeping more comfortably.

A New Blood Test for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

The Dove Medical Press journal Nature and Science of Sleep has published a study that highlights the potential use of blood biomarkers as a diagnostic tool for obstructive sleep apnea. The article entitled "Use of blood biomarkers to screen for obstructive sleep apnea" demonstrates positive clinical trial results that suggest blood tests may be a useful screening tool and may be potentially superior to current diagnostic methods.

The study, which used male participants only, found that concurrent elevations of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), C-reactive protein (CRP), and erythropoietin (EPO) indicated that a patient may have obstructive sleep apnea. The study demonstrated that blood biomarkers proved superior to the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and other standard screening methods currently used for diagnosis, particularly in non-obese males. These tests were shown to correlate with disease severity and may assist in triaging patients for diagnosis and treatment.

My Thoughts: Looking ahead, it seems like we should be able to logically get to the point where you can go in for a blood draw, get a diagnosis, save a lot of time, money and effort, and get more people diagnosed.

Teens, Screen time, Sleep and Depression

As reported in Sleep Review Magazine, teens’ depressive symptoms were associated with screen-based activities, including social messaging and web-surfing, and were brought about by sleep deprivation and insomnia, according to research presented at SLEEP 2018 in Baltimore.

“We are excited about our findings because they merge three important areas of adolescent research: screen time, sleep disturbances and depressive symptoms,” Lauren Hale, Ph.D., professor of family, population and preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “While this is only an observational study and we are not able to show causality, it does show that above and beyond depressive symptoms at age 9, higher daily screen time and sleep disturbances are associated with more depressive symptoms at age 15.”

Hale and colleagues used the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study teen survey to gather data from 3,134 adolescents (mean age, 15.63 years; 51 percent boys). Insomnia symptoms, including problems falling asleep and staying asleep, habitual weeknight sleep duration and depressive symptoms were included in survey questions.

My Thoughts: It seems to make sense that these would certainly be related. While we are still unsure of what causes this depression (I would have to guess that it is multi-factorial), screen time, which affects sleep, is probably one of those factors. The Solution: Swanwick Glasses. If you aren’t using these for pre-sleep device light exposure, try them, I don’t look at screens at night typically, but if I do, I wear my Swanwick's. You and especially your teens should too. If your teens or grandchildren are anything like most teens, they are Snapchatting and Instagramming long after they should be looking at screens at night!

Sweet Dreams.

Dr. Michael Breus

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