If you’re looking for ways to improve your sleep routine or to wake up feeling refreshed in the mornings, you should consider how much time you spend outdoors in direct sunlight.
In this article, we’re including some advice and information based on data and science about why does light wake you up and how it could benefit you.
Benefits of Sunlight
Light suppresses melatonin secretion, which in turn, wakes the body up. In fact, morning sunlight can be therapeutic for some people who work overnight shifts and sleep during the day. So if a person goes to bed late and then wakes up later, exposure to sunlight can help to push this schedule back to help you to go to bed earlier and then wake up earlier the following day.
Furthermore, when your body is exposed to morning light, it releases hormones that have been found to improve your mood. The light tells your brain to shut down melatonin production that promotes a feeling of waking. This is similar to the release of dopamine, histamine, and norepinephrine, which can make people feel good about themselves.
Why Light Makes Waking up Easier
Have you ever noticed that when you spend more time outdoors during the day, your sleeping routine that evening is better? That’s because sunlight and being exposed to natural bright light when you wake up can actually make you feel more awake. In fact, morning sunlight can increase your feelings of alertness and lead to deeper slumber in the evening, thus, having a positive impact on your mood the following day. Many studies have found that exposure to light in the morning can improve your sleeping pattern and reduce the effects of stress and depression.
Moreover, exposure to natural bright sunlight helps to lock the body into a 24-hour schedule. It leaves you feeling more awake and energetic in the mornings and, therefore, more likely to be tired enough to sleep better at night. However, if these cycles are off (i.e., you aren’t getting an adequate amount of sunlight exposure), you may encounter problems falling asleep. For example, this commonly happens on the weekend when we stay out late, sleep in late, and miss exposure to the morning light.
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Increase Your Light Exposure in the Morning
With all of these benefits, why not consider increasing your light exposure in the morning. For this process to work effectively, we recommend spending around 30–45 minutes of direct sunlight exposure to your eyes when you first awake. Fortunately, the sunlight tends to be less intense in the morning, so it won’t pose too much of a risk of damaging your skin. Although, if you’re concerned, wear sunscreen.
When you get up in the morning, head outdoors and take a walk around the block. This way, you can increase your exercise at the same time as boosting your serotonin levels.
Why Light Is So Important for You
Light is so important to you because it sets your circadian rhythms, which is otherwise known as your body clock, via light sensors within the eyes. The eyes can detect the light within an environment and adjusts the body’s natural clock so that the internal and external day match. In fact, the body’s circadian rhythms are so powerful that they can lead to sleep problems and disorders if improperly regulated.
How Light Affects Melatonin
Melatonin – a hormone that the body naturally makes – is closely connected to light. In fact, exposure to sunlight slows or halts the rate at which the body produces this hormone. When melatonin levels rise, you feel more drowsy. Daily cycles of hormone production can normalise circadian rhythm, helping to improve your sleep-wake cycle.
If you struggle to get to sleep or feel like your brain won’t switch off during bedtime, you may need synthetic melatonin which is available as a dietary supplement. It can help to regulate sleep timing and allow you to snooze better through the night.
How Light Increases Serotonin
If your face, eyes, and body are exposed to sunlight, it’ll aid to increase your production of serotonin. This natural chemical regulates your mood and sleep. So getting enough sun in the morning can ramp up your production of serotonin, which helps you to sleep undisturbed later at night.
Why Is It Bad to Sleep With the Light On?
You don’t want to drift off at night with a light on. In fact, exposure at night can reduce your sleep quality, and waking up too many times can leave you feeling tired and groggy the following day.
This doesn’t mean to say that artificial light in an office all day at work is a positive thing to experience. In fact, a light that has the same brightness can have a different wavelength, altering how the brain and eye perceive it. In other words, you can’t trick your brain into thinking that it’s receiving sunlight when it’s actually receiving dull, artificial lighting.
How Do I Stop Being a Light Sleeper?
There are many factors that could impact how deep you sleep but one of the main considerations is your exposure to different sources of light.
As an example, blue light has a short wavelength and uses LEDs. It is found in smartphones, laptops, tablets, and more. People should spend less time around this kind of light. Extensive night use of these devices before bed may result in sleep problems, such as have difficulty falling asleep in the first place and being able to remain asleep all night. It is advised to reduce time on laptops and other gadgets several hours before bedtime.
Should You Fall Asleep in Complete Darkness?
With this theory in mind, it poses another question: should you sleep in the dark for the best health benefits? The answer is yes. Complete darkness may keep distractions out of the way and disturbances while you’re trying to sleep and can help you to feel contented. On the other hand, sleeping with a light on can interfere with your sleep cycle and leave you feeling tired the following morning. Simply closing your eyes isn’t enough to block out all of the light in your bedroom.
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Other Health Benefits of Sunlight
Aside from helping you to fall asleep and wake up easier, sunlight has several other benefits.
Boosts Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that you need to prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of various cancers and heart disease. Increasing your natural light intake every day, whether that’s at home or at the office, is important.
Vitamin D can also reduce depression and boost weight loss. Plus, there are many vitamin D supplements available today to increase your intake if you’re not getting enough from the sun.
Reduces Eye Strain
Fluorescent lights can elevate stress response and cause eye strain. Spending more time in natural light can reduce the feelings of eye strain.
Improves Your Mood
Finally, daily sunlight can help to improve your overall mood and make you feel more confident to face another gruelling day at work. There are many people who feel seasonal affective disorder, which is a depression caused by seasonal changes. And people experience a more filtered version of this, which is often referred to as the “winter blues“.
Making sure that you spend time in the sunlight every morning can make you feel happier and energised. This allows you to have a more positive outlook and a satisfyingly productive day.
Are You a Deep Sleeper?
If you want to experience the health benefits that come with being out in the sun, try to increase the time you spend outdoors basking in the morning sunlight (particularly as soon as you wake up). Knowing why does light wake you up and the science behind how important it is for your body is just the first step to managing your lifestyle and getting a great night’s sleep.
Do you have any tips on a great way of waking up in the morning? Let us know your thoughts and tips in the comments.