It’s a well-known fact amongst health professionals that we must not expose ourselves to a significant amount of artificial light and instead try and increase our contact with natural light.
We must try and repeat this pattern of increase natural and decrease artificial light every 24 hours for it to really affect our health.
Research is frequently being undertaken on the effects of artificial light and subsequently a lack of natural light on our bodies. The exposure to artificial light affects our circadian rhythm. The Circadian clock is responsible for regulating sleep and food patterns, body temperature, hormone production and our glucose and insulin levels.
The Circadian clock
Since the first humans were ever present on earth, they relied on the sun, the moon and the stars to light and guide their circadian clock. When electricity was invented in 1878 this as we have now realised would have a significant effect on how and when we sleep. It would totally change our reliance on the sun, the moon, the stars and the odd candle to light our way. The rising and falling of the sun have an impact on every cell in our body, and it’s not just humans, the sun also affects every organism on the planet.
The internal circadian clock works on a 24hr cycle. When we are exposed to too much artificial light and too little natural light, this cycle is thrown off balance. Research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) showed that when our circadian system is off balance, our health can be affected. Problems can occur such as obesity and diabetes. They also found that those who work night shifts had an increased risk of these types of health problems.
What you can do
As with everything in life, moderation is key. You need to make sure you expose yourself to natural light every day, and to try to avoid extreme amounts of artificial light during the day. It’s also recommended to avoid spending significant amounts of time in rooms that do not have windows. During the night, try to dim your lights if possible and limit your exposure to electronic products at least an hour before bed.
It’s a shame that the modern world can’t accommodate working hours linked to our circadian cycles. As if more was understood about the negative impact artificial light has on the body, it’s possible that work hours could be subject to the seasons and perhaps certain health problems would not be so apparent.
As you can’t control your working hours right now you can control other light factors in your life. You should try to get into the habit of turning off or dimming lights as often as you can. You should also significantly limit your smartphone usage as this plays a huge part in disrupting your circadian rhythms, according to a study published in the Science Advances journal. The study also found that people who were exposed to outdoor light went to sleep earlier and slept for longer than those with more indoor light.
Children and older people have highly sensitive circadian patterns. So a good way to get a child to sleep regularly is to remove the light from the room. These things that you can change should really be tried if you do suffer from a poor sleeping pattern.
If possible, reduce as much artificial light in your life as possible. Perhaps try to live like our ancestors, early to sleep, early to wake.
By Holly W.