Welcome to a Midsummer’s Night!

summer solstice in Alaska
Public Domain image courtesy the US Bureau of Land Management: “My Public Lands Roadtrip: Eagle Summit, Steese National Conservation Area, in Alaska”

Talk about the shortest night… People in Alaska doesn’t get to enjoy dark nights at all during this time of year. After all, this is midsummer, the time of the Summer Solstice.

What is a solstice?

Known as “longest day of the year,” the Summer Solstice is one of only two precise moments during the year when the Earth’s axis leans closest to the sun. This year’s occurs, officially, in the Northern Hemisphere at 11:24 PM Central Daylight Time on June 20.

(Science nerds will appreciate that our planet’s maximum axial tilt at this time in the Northern Hemisphere is 23.44°; it is also the time when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the poles.)

Solstices occur twice a year, like the equinoxes in the spring and fall, with the Winter Solstice happening in the season opposite to mark the “shortest day of the year.” 

How does midsummer relate to sleep?

Our sleep cycles are conditioned by the available light-dark cycles of the Earth. You might find you struggle to fall asleep on this night because your intended sleep-wake schedule does not quite line up with the planet’s rhythms on this longest of days.

Try not to fret over lost sleep, if possible. Some people take advantage of this unique twice-yearly occasion by celebrating with bonfires or stargazing. One popular solstice excursion made my many tourists includes a trip to the Stonehenge monument in the United Kingdom on this day.

Closer to home, The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers a fun Bill Nye video that will livestream at midsummer, as well as a handy sunrise and sunset calculator for your area.