Most people don’t realize that natural light has a direct impact on our sleep, mood, memory, learning ability, immunity and overall wellbeing.
Light enters the body via the cells of the eye connected to the brain which sends information about it being “day” or “night” to our biological clock, a small area near the hypothalamus.
During the day our biological clock secretes hormones required for optimum physical and brain activity whereas when the eyes perceive darkness then it signals the brain to begin producing “sleep” hormones like melatonin.
Natural light regulates mood
It is known that in winter, a number of people suffer from a lack of energy and motivation, coupled with an excessive need for sleep and attraction to sweet foods. This is known as seasonal mood disorder, highlighted in 1982 by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (US).
The researchers developed a treatment technique based on exposure to light near the solar spectrum.
Taking a stroll outside during lunch breaks seemed to help considerably. Even an overcast sky, which has a brightness of about 1500 lux has beneficial properties.
Good Lighting Effects Mental Alertness
We are able to focus easier and for a sustained period of time in a room that is well lit, preferably with natural light than a weakly lit room with artificial lighting.
In 2006, American researchers found by testing various primary colors that when driving at night in order to stay awake, the effect was stronger with blue light, like that of the morning, even at low intensity. Before sitting behind the wheel, especially if you have spent part of the day in a dark office, it certainly helps to take time to walk in the daylight when the weather permits to avoid fatigue when driving. For night driving, set the GPS screen or any other screen in the car in night mode, blue.
Light regulates our sleep patterns
Ideally, once in bed and lights out we should fall asleep easily and wake up fully refreshed and recharged after 6-8 hours. Off course this is not the case for many people. Our sleep depends on our melatonin secretion.
Melatonin is produced exclusively in the dark. The primary function of this is introduce fatigue and a lowered sense alertness to prepare us to sleep.
In these modern times we are constantly assaulted with artificial light and this often leads to difficulty falling asleep. Most people expose themselves to an electronic screen before they go to bed. This could in form of a TV, computer, tablet or even even cell phone. These screens emit a blue light that tricks the brain into thinking it’s still day time, retarding melatonin production. Instead of reaching for sleeping pills, a better alternative would be to try not expose yourself to any of these devices at least 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed. This would allow sufficient time for the brain to secrete melatonin, making it easier for you to fall asleep when you head hits the pillow.
The importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is also associated with a lower risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disorders.
Fortunately it’s really easy to get out Vitamin D fix by simply exposing ourselves to 10-15 minutes of sunlight three to four times a week. In winter in certain countries there may not be much sunlight so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to supplement your Vitamin D intake orally.
What happens when do don’t expose ourselves to adequate amounts of natural light?
Studies show that lack of daylight generates sleep disorders and also has a direct impact on alertness and cognitive performance. Lack of sunlight may also increase the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes. People who do not get sufficient natural light or sunlight are more prone to mental disorders and depression. There are more and more cases of people claiming to have overcome depression without harmful medication by simply spending more time in nature and less time indoors. Apart from mental disorders, people who do not get adequate sunlight are prone to skin disorders and often show signs of a weaker immune system than people who spend more time outdoors.