If it’s your first time visiting Iceland during the summer, when the sunlight is infinite and darkness is nowhere to be found, you might be struggling to get some much needed shut-eye. We asked sleep expert and scientist Erla Björnsdóttir how the midnight sun affects quality of sleep, and what can be done to maximize your beauty rest, despite the bright nights.
Brightness in general has a great impact on our mood, energy and sleep pattern. Our sleep wake cycle is best regulated when we are exposed to daylight early in the morning and surrounded by darkness in the evening. This is because of the hormone melatonin, which is released in the body in darkness and causes sleepiness. In the morning when we are exposed to daylight the release of melatonin decreases and this helps us to wake up and feel more energetic.
In Iceland, this can sometimes be a bit complicated due to the dark winter days and bright summer nights. When we are outdoors at night during summer and exposed to the brightness, production of melatonin is postponed;we do not feel sleepy at our regular bedtime and might find it difficult to fall asleep once we go to bed at night. It is therefore important to find ways to help our circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin to be in sync.
I would recommend people wear sunglasses when outdoors in the summertime in Iceland (even though the sun is not shining) and, when indoors, it is important to cover your windows and start reducing all brightness in your environment at least two hours before your bedtime. Your bedroom should be as dark as possible and sleeping with a sleep mask that covers the eyes might be useful.