In our fast-paced lives, where artificial light extends our waking hours into the night, have you ever wondered how it affects your sleep, hormones, and mood? For the changing hormonal landscape of menopause, a time when sleep disruptions are most common, good light hygiene becomes even more essential. Let’s unpack the fascinating world of circadian rhythms, the body’s internal clock, and discover the intricate dance between light exposure and our well-being.
Understanding the Circadian Symphony
Picture this: your body has its own internal conductor, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the hypothalamus. This maestro is entrained to the 24-hour solar day, orchestrating a symphony of biological rhythms that dictate when you sleep, wake, and experience peak energy. It’s a delicate dance influenced by the ebb and flow of natural light.
The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) has an extremely important role in your life and is the brain’s time keeper. Think of the SCN as the commander-in-chief of your internal clock that guides your daily activities, constantly scanning the environment for cues on whether it’s time to wake up, be active, or wind down for a good night’s sleep.
Syncing with the Sun: How The Suprachiasmatic Nuclei (SCN) Keeps Time
SCN’s superpower lies in its ability to sync with the natural rhythm of day and night 24 hours a day.. It does this by paying close attention to the amount of light your eyes receive. When morning light hits your eyes, it signals the SCN that it’s time to rev up the energy for the day. As the day winds down and darkness falls, the SCN guides your body into relaxation mode, preparing you for a restful night.
The Impact of Artificial Light on Circadian Harmony
With the advent of artificial light, especially during evening and night hours, our light environment has undergone a significant transformation. This shift comes with potential consequences, potentially increasing the risk of circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders (CRSWD). These disorders often stem from a misalignment between our internal rhythms and external light-dark cycles.
The Allure of Blue Light and LED: A Modern Dilemma
Picture the screens that surround us, emitting a mesmerizing glow—often tinged with blue hues. Devices like smartphones, tablets, and LED lights have become an integral part of our daily lives. While convenient, they come with a double-edged sword: the potential to disrupt our natural rhythms and impact our health.
Blue Light’s Impact on Sleep: Disturbing the Circadian Dance
Blue light, abundant in sunlight, is not inherently harmful. However, the issue arises when we encounter it in the evening, signaling to our brain that it’s still daytime. This can interfere with the natural wind-down process, making it harder to fall asleep.
LED Lights and Melatonin Suppression: A Nighttime Nemesis
Enter LED lights—the energy-efficient champions of modern lighting. While they are a boon in terms of efficiency, they emit a significant amount of blue light. Exposure to LED lights in the evening may disrupt our circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin production, a sleep-inducing hormone, which typically increases in the absence of light leading to sleep difficulties and potential health consequences.
Beyond Sleep: Blue Light’s Reach into Hormonal Harmony
The impact of blue light extends beyond sleep. Research suggests that exposure to artificial light at night may affect the production of other hormones, such as cortisol. This can disrupt the delicate balance of our hormonal system, potentially influencing mood, stress levels, and overall well-being.
Protecting Your Health: Strategies for Blue Light Mitigation
Amidst the sea of artificial light, there are strategies to mitigate the potential hazards. Consider using blue light filters on electronic devices, especially during the evening. Opt for warm-toned LED lights, which emit less blue light, in your living spaces. Additionally, creating a technology-free wind-down routine before bedtime can signal to your body that it’s time to prepare for rest.
Dr. John Ott and the inventor of the full spectrum lighting to enhance health and wellbeing
“In 1989 Dr.John Nash Ott founded OttLite to bring the power of natural daylight indoors through his one-of-a-kind natural daylight bulb. A photobiologist and pioneer in natural light research, Dr. Ott discovered through 40 years of scientific research the remarkable effects specific wavelengths of light have on all living things. Known as the father of full-spectrum lighting, his research concluded that a light with the entire visible spectrum of light wavelengths was best for vision and well being. This led to the development of the first sunlight lamp.” If you’re interested in checking out the OTTLITE to improve your circadian rhythm , you can see a variety of lamps at the website. www.ottlite.com
Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Several years ago I purchased a pair of yellow tinted blue light glasses for my computer work. Before I began wearing my blue light glasses, I had terrible eye strain and my eyes would become bloodshot. I would feel tired and nauseous. The nausea was something I didn’t expect but when I looked up some of the side effects of staring at a screen for hours, nausea actually came up! Since wearing the blue light blockers, my eyes feel much better and I don’t experience the strain I once did. You especially want to wear the blue light blocker eyeglasses in the evening if you’re on your computer so the body realizes it’s night time and doesn’t interfere with your melatonin production. There are many resources for blue light blockers. I purchased mine at the website www.defendershield.com
Navigating the Light Spectrum for Well-being
In our pursuit of health and balance, it’s essential to navigate the modern light spectrum wisely. While the allure of blue light and LED is undeniable, understanding their potential impact allows us to make informed choices. As we strive for optimal sleep, hormonal harmony, and overall well-being, finding a balance in our exposure to artificial light becomes a key ingredient in the recipe for a healthy life.
Embracing the Sun: UVA, UVB, the Dance of Light and Vitamin D
Think of the sun as more than just a radiant source of light; it’s a natural health booster. Its UVA and UVB rays, absorbed through your skin and eyes, kickstart a process that’s like a magical elixir for your body—Vitamin D. This vitamin, created by sunlight exposure, influences your hormones and contributes to your overall health.
The Symphony of Circadian Hormones: A Peek into the Adrenal Gland
To understand how your body follows a daily rhythm, let’s zoom into your adrenal glands, which are like hormonal conductors. Research has shown that these glands release hormones in a day/night pattern, influencing how awake or sleepy you feel. It’s like your body’s own internal clock, adjusting itself to the natural cycle of the day.
The Hypothalamus Pituitary Axis (HPA): Bridging the Gap Between Light and Body
Now, let’s talk about the HPA axis, a communication network in your body. It connects your brain’s timekeeper with the rest of your system. Think of it as a messaging system that helps your body understand when it’s time to be alert or wind down. The HPA-axis also plays a role in resetting your body clock if it gets a bit off track. The HPA axis controls the release of the hormone cortisol which ideally should be high in the morning and low at night. For anyone who works the night shift and sleeps during the day like nurses, this can throw off the circadian rhythm. It’s the kind of schedule that defies the laws of natural order.
Receptors of Light: Eyes and Skin as Gatekeepers of Health
Your eyes and skin are like guardians that let in the good vibes from sunlight. They have special sensors that not only help you see but also capture sunlight, turning it into Vitamin D. This nutrient is like a superhero, supporting your immune system, mood, and the harmony of hormones in your body.
Vitamin D: A Sun-Kissed Elixir for Hormonal Harmony
As you soak up the sun, your body creates Vitamin D, a friendly hormone helper. Beyond keeping your bones strong, Vitamin D plays a role in making sure your body’s internal rhythms are in sync. It’s like a sunny boost for your hormones, contributing to a balanced and happy you.
The Power of Full Spectrum Light: Beyond Vitamin D
While Vitamin D takes the spotlight, the benefits of morning sunlight extend beyond a single nutrient. Full spectrum light, present in the early morning sun, influences the release of serotonin—a neurotransmitter linked to mood and well-being. This serotonin boost not only uplifts your mood but also contributes to the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle, fostering a sense of balance and vitality.
Incorporating the Ritual: Making Morning Sun a Priority
In the hustle of modern life, dedicating 20 minutes to morning sun exposure may seem challenging. However, making it a priority is an investment in your health. Whether it’s a brisk walk, enjoying your morning beverage outdoors, or simply basking in the sunlight, find a ritual that aligns with your lifestyle. The benefits, both for your immune system and sleep quality, make it a practice well worth cultivating.
Sunlight Kills Bacteria
Florence Nightingale was right when she said that human health improves when we let in fresh air and sunlight. “Humans spend most of their time indoors, where exposure to dust particles that carry a variety of bacteria, including pathogens that can make us sick, is unavoidable,” according to one of the researchers of the study, Ashkaan Fahimipour from the University of Oregon.”Therefore, it is important to understand how features of the buildings we occupy influence dust ecosystems and how this could affect our health.”
The team created 11 identical, climate-controlled miniature rooms, where the only variation was the type of light allowed in.
Measurements of bacterial levels in the air showed that in dark rooms, 12 percent of the bacteria were viable (able to live and reproduce). That dropped to 6.8 percent in rooms where daylight was allowed in, and 6.1 percent in rooms bathed in ultraviolet light.
Ultraviolet light is known to kill off some germs, but it’s usually filtered out by windows. Those rooms where light was let in also showed fewer bacteria linked to human skin and more bacteria linked to the outdoors – suggesting a dose of sunshine causes indoor rooms to more closely resemble outdoor spaces, according to the researchers.
Conclusion: Nurturing the Light Within
In the grand story of sleep, hormones, and health, light is the unsung hero. From the sun’s embrace to the dance of hormones, each element plays a crucial role in your well-being. In the midst of our modern, artificial-light-filled lives, let’s not forget the timeless connection we share with the sun—a celestial partner in our journey toward optimal health.
In the grand story of sleep, hormones and health, a daily dose of good light hygiene is a gift to your immune system, a regulator of your internal clock, and a natural elixir for a restful night’s sleep. As you step into the sunlight each morning, remember that you are not merely soaking in rays; you are nurturing the harmony of your body’s delicate dance with the sun.