Sunlight and Sleep

04/30/2017 06:18 pm ET
Sunlight and sleep
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Sunlight and sleep

There are two absolutely free and easy things to try if sleep for you or your family is elusive:

1. Practice a calm and intentional bedtime routine. Also known as “sleep hygiene” in the world of sleep medicine.

2. Get out in sunlight. Preferably within two hours of waking up.

Morning sunlight not only boosts your daytime energy, it can contribute to regular, restful sleep.

Here’s why sunlight exposure matters....

Every living thing responds to the greater rhythm of night and day, darkness and sunlight. We all have circadian rhythms.

And light, particularly natural light, regulates circadian rhythms, sleeping and waking cycles, and the symphony of hormones involved in our wellbeing.

Dan Pardi, a Stanford researcher and the creator of the free lifestyle tracker, Dan’s Plan has an in-depth interview all about light and sleep on Dr. Mercola’s site.

Pardi introduces the phrase “anchor light”; going into detail about sleep, our internal master clocks, circadian rhythms, and exactly which part of the brain is affected by sunlight.

So, in terms of practical advice to help you maintain healthy master clock timing, you want to get bright light exposure during the day. Many indoor environments simply aren't intense enough to do the job well. So-called "anchor light" anchors your rhythm, causing it to be less fragile, so that light at night has less of an ability to shift your rhythm.

When it comes to quantity of light exposure, timing is key, according to Pardi. Eighty percent of the anchoring effect occurs in the first 30-60 minutes of natural sunlight exposure.

We can add productivity, focus, and happiness in the work place to the list of positive benefits of sun exposure. This Forbes article cites a study in which workers in offices with more windows enjoy a better quality of life than those stuck in Dilbert-like cubicles.

Looking for more evidence that light has a strong effect on our wellbeing? This article from Sleep Review Magazine on light therapy for better sleep gives scientific background as well as a few strategies.

Why not take advantage of free “Nutrient Sunshine”? As is the case with all good habits, awareness is the first step. Here are some tips to incorporate more sunlight in your day.

1. Park your electronics outside the bedroom – somewhere where getting to your email or social media is not convenient first thing in the morning.

2. Set up a morning ritual – coffee, journaling, meditating – that is outside or near a window.

3. Have seasonal go-to outfits laid out at night so you can go outside first thing in the morning. This not only makes it easier for you to get outside and be comfortable, it’s an example of a morning ritual that you reverse at bedtime – another habit that can support sleep.

4. Walk to school or work.

5. Schedule outdoor chores every day. You don’t have to wait until Saturdays! In urban environments, try to do run errands like going to the laundromat or picking up the paper when the sun is out.

6. Take your lunch hour outside.

7. Schedule in outdoor family time regularly. Hiking, farmers’ markets, exploring parks. You’ll get Vitamin Nature as well as Vitamin Sunshine.

For more tips to help get sleep back in your life, sign up for the Get Your Sleep On! webinar here. It’s free and there are gifts and prizes.

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