I had a reader ask me recently, after watching the show, Flying Wild Alaska, how I manage to adapt to the extreme changes in our long days vs our short days. It can be a challenge to get used to vast differences between the summer and winter months. During the Summer months, we can experience up to 24 hours of daylight in the most northern parts of the state. In my area, we usually get at most, 4-5 hours of daylight during the darkest months in the winter. With summers being so short, we try to go out as a family to soak up as much sun and fresh air as possible. Since my family is naturally outdoorsy anyways, we take any opportunity to go hiking, fishing, camping, and take advantage of all that Alaska has to offer whenever we can.
Since all my children have been born and raised in Alaska, I’ve never found it to really affect their sleeping patterns. I think they’ve grown accustomed to the daylight changes and since only two of them (as babies) have ever been outside of the state, they don’t really know anything different. They do have a tendency to be more energetic during these time periods and I notice that I am able to stay up at night much later than the winter months. These long days makes it ideal for doing some late night fishing and full day of sight seeing since you can hardly call even the few hours of night dark. It’s more like the twilight hours as you could even go hiking in the mountains all night long with great visibility and in my opinion, is the best time to visit the state.
The winter months can be tough as the lack of sunshine can often lead to vitamin D deficiency in many Alaskans. With a maximum of 4-5 hours of daylight each day, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) often occurs and many can feel depressed during the short days with freezing temperatures. It’s no wonder that we feel cabin fever and I’ve found the best way to combat it is to take a good source of liquid vitamin D and to stay as busy as we can with activities indoors and out. Some people even use those light boxes or go to tanning booths for therapy. There are some that also have extreme cases that they go on medication and it’s one of the factors that contributes to a high suicide rate in our state.
I have not been immune to SAD either as I myself have experienced the effects lack of sunshine can have on a person. When I was pregnant with Patience, I had the blues so bad that there were times I could hardly manage to get myself out of bed. Even when I’d get a full night of sleep, I’d wake up in the morning feeling as if I had not slept at all. My energy level was at an all time low and I had no motivation to do anything. During a midwife appointment, I found that my vitamin D levels were at an alarming low level for being pregnant and learned that this could also affect my baby. Optimal, healthy levels are around the 100 point range and mine were only at 20 I ended up taking vitamin D since then and after a couple weeks, was feeling back to my old self. It’s amazing how something as simple as that can help prevent SAD and depression!
While the startling daylight difference in the summer and winter months isn’t easy for any Alaskan, getting out and keeping busy are some key elements to adjusting to the season changes. Summer abounds with activity all across the state, but winter also has its fair share of activities. During the long winter months, you can catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) and participate or view sports like the Iditarod races, Iron Dog competition, ice fishing, snow machining, skiing, and snowboarding to name a few. There’s never a shortage of things to do in getting the most out of living in Alaska and beating SAD!