Throughout the day, you are surrounded by natural and artificial lights, and, without you noticing it, each of which gives different results to your health. To avoid the wrong kind and optimize the right kind, getting to know more about “lights” can give you benefits in many ways, especially to your circadian rhythm (Body clock). When your circadian hythm works healthily, it results in…
- Enhanced sleep quality.
- Sound melatonin and other hormone release, body temperature, and other bodily functions.
- Lower risk of illness.
- Increased workout performance (Reaction time) and metabolism.
- Improved mental health.
As lights have a huge impact on your circadian rhythm, your habits with light shouldn’t be ignored whatsoever, in order to obtain vigorous body and sane mind.
SUNLIGHT – THE BEST OF ITS KIND
Nature knows well what’s best for your body, and sunlight is one generous gift from nature to your physical and mental health. Being inexhaustible and completely free-of-charge, knowing how to live with sunlight could help you get surprisingly healthier.
- BENEFITS FROM SUNLIGHT
It’s not only about getting glowingly tanned, but also about hormones and metabolism. There are plenty of reasons why you should go out and enjoy the sun regularly:
- The sun gives you vitamin D to help strengthen your bones, preventing from disorders such as multiple sclerosis (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=204651), heart diseases (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726624/), flu, and some cancers.
- Indeed, sleeping does not start only at night – how you sleep tonight starts from this morning. Daily exposure to the sun helps improve your sleep, as your body produces more melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy), which helps regulating your biological clock.
- Sun does help you get leaner, as its ray triggers the “mammalian target of rapamycin” or mTOR, a protein kinase that is the key regulator of metabolic equilibrium and the controller of cell growth. This is also why other beings grow more in summer, as it is the period when sunlight lasts longer in a day. Additionally, healthy cell growth impacts directly to longevity.
- Natural light has a huge impact on your mood, as serotonin, a neurotransmitter contributing to the sense of wellbeing, is also regulated by sunlight just like melatonin. Additionally, sunlight is believed to enhance cognitive function (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2728098/), resulting in improved daily productivity.
- BEST TIME TO STAY IN THE SUN
Undoubtedly, morning is the best time to let the sunshine strobes on you. First of all, it tells your body to really wake up and kickstarts your inner engines. And, as previously mentioned, it’s how you get a daily dose of vitamin D. Getting soaked in the morning sun also comes with fewer risk of sun damage than the afternoon basking.
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT – YOUR WORST ENEMY
This is the fact that is difficult to accept, and even harder to avoid the harm of it. Artificial light emits from everywhere, from the light bulbs to your PC and smartphones. According to studies, the synthetic light is especially damaging at night, since it withholds the production of melatonin release, resulting in sleep disorders, and it could possibly be linked to breast cancer. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26375320)
The American Medical Association has previously stated about potential damage street lights can be done to people’s health and to environment. The light emitting diodes (LEDs) used as street lights operate at a wavelength that suppresses melatonin discharge. However, LEDs are not only at the sides of the streets – they are almost everywhere, from stadiums, department stores, to your home. Adversely, residential LED lighting greatly affects the circadian sleep rhythms. There are actually environmental impacts in some unexpected ways as well, even though they are claimed to be environmentally- friendly. (https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/ama-adopts-guidance-reduce-harm-high-intensity-street-lights)
- WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE LIGHT?
There are a lot of good things about this illuminating invention. Light does guide you home. Light does perk you up in the daytime. Light can be beneficially used in medical treatments like “photobiology”, implementing full spectrum light or partial spectrum to relieve pain, and even to cure some serious diseases, as it can penetrate tissue-deep.
But, light can also do you a lot of harm to your wake-sleep cycle with the excessive use of it, and the damage is done little by little without you noticing it.
- BLUE WAVELENGTHS: THE PROBLEM
You may have frequently heard about “blue light” and its harm, but you may ignore the lightings around you as they don’t look “blue”. As LEDs do produce a fair amount of light in blue spectrum despite their appearing in white, we are actually taking in the blue wavelengths all the time. The problems with the blue light are…
- It can induce severe retinal damage to your
eyes’ photoreceptors, and is believed to bring about necrosis or cell’s
- As mentioned before, it disrupts your circadian rhythm a lot as it suppresses melatonin secretion and increases your alertness, even when you shouldn’t be all alert.
- The ongoing obstruction of melatonin production
can eventually result in severe sleeping disorders. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26375320)
- The effects from blue wavelengths can be cell-deep, which could possibly lead to serious illness such as breast cancer or heart diseases. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25863264)
- Light activates the master fuel sensor that promotes growth (the aforementioned “mTOR”), but your body still needs darkness at the right time to optimize the cleanup of your cells. The excessive work of mTOR causes health issues and impair metabolism. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2590753/)
- Even though the light is dimmed, it can still impact you as much as when it shines bright, which means it’s hard to really get around the effects from blue light.
CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS AND LIGHT
To properly optimize your routine for health, it is vital to understand more about your circadian rhythms, as they are highly light-related.
- CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS
In a day, there are changes on your body, mind, and behavior that respond mainly to light and darkness. This is why, naturally, we are awake in daylight and are less alert at nightfall. Not only human beings have such rhythms, but behaviors of animals, plants, and many microbes answer to the light as well.
- CIRCADIAN RHYTMS VERSUS BIOLOGICAL CLOKCS
Circadian rhythms are also directly linked to, but not the same as, biological clocks. Biological clocks are found in different tissues and organs, with the master clock in the brain as the coordinator, and the controller of melatonin production. Since genes that control biological clocks are switched on and off, or speeded up and slowed down by light, the clocks subsequently manage your circadian rhythms.
It may sound quite complicated, but it can be clearly implied that signals from the environment, especially light and darkness, has a huge impact to the behavior of your body.
- ABNORMAL CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS
Once the circadian rhythms are disrupted by wrong timing for light, your sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, digestion, body temperature, and many other bodily functions are interrupted too. Atypical rhythms can be related to a myriad of illnesses and health conditions, and even to mental wellbeing.
A GUIDE TO LIVING HEALTHILY WITH “LIGHTS”
- SUNSHINE MATTERS
Taking a walk in the morning sun – this simple activity sounds so easy that people ignore its fantastic health benefit. By simply absorbing the mild daylight, you are naturally increasing melatonin in your body, resulting in a better sleep at night. Besides, your mood is improved under the sun. Try making “sunshine” the first thing of your day.
- BLOCK OUT THE BLUE LIGHT
Even though you may not perceive a tangible benefit from using a blue light blocking object, but it does help you a lot in the long run. After the sun goes down, artificial lights become inevitable, but its damage can be mitigated with blue light filtering glasses. Even though it does not directly help you with the eyestrain from staring at the computer (eyestrain comes from unceasingly staring at something for a long period, not directly from the light), it helps lessen potential damage of retina from the blue light.
- “NIGHT MODE” ON YOUR PHONE…FOR ALL DAY LONG
Nowadays, most smartphones come with a way to alleviate the blue light pollution. The “Night Shift” screen mode (for Apple) or “Night Mode” (for Android) enables the screen to become warmer in color, reducing blue light emission. Even though it is designed for the night, using this mode from day to night is a great way to avoid unnecessary amount of blue wavelengths.
- PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY BEFORE BEDTIME
This shift in habit will massively affect your sleep and overall health. Instead of checking your phone, try putting it away for at least an hour before bed and replace it with healthier routine such as reading book or meditating. The light from your phone awakens you, so it’s harder to sleep if you make it the last thing you see before you try to fall asleep.
- TRACK YOUR SLEEP
In order to optimize your sleep, don’t just “assume” that you already have a healthy one. Try wearing a sleep tracker in order to learn more about your sleep pattern. If it turns out that you don’t really have enough nighttime rest as you think you do, it’s time for a change in habit and environment, especially those related to “lights”.