Enjoying the long summer days? Do you feel better when there’s a bit of summer sun? Linda Geddes in the The New Scientist recently reported on new studies that investigate the effects of sunlight in terms of alertness, quality of sleep and mood.
The studies found that there was a huge difference between sitting indoors in a bright day and actually being outside, even on a cloudy day. We don’t generally get enough daylight this way. Add to this by putting our lights on in the evening, and we can find our circadian rhythms (sleep patterns) disturbed, which often leads to low mood and decreased alertness. As human beings, we need defined times of day in bright light and very dark light to properly stimulate the body clock clock hormones such as melantonin which signals to the body that it’s time to sleep.
Increased light and modified lighting indoors to simulate daylight, and dark time in the evenings was found to greatly increase mood, alertness and quality of sleep, most noticeably in dementia sufferers. However, we all know that getting out in the daylight is good for us.
What can we do? Even in winter, there are ways we can help our circadian rhythms by making sure we get some quality daylight. Get outside – the studies showed that even dim light outdoors is better than light that filters through windows. At night, try and turn off devices and screens that are emitting blue light, because our eyes read this light as daytime. The studies find that even night time modes on devices didn’t really help to keep the sleep patterns regular, although there was no mention of how much this is due to light levels and how much down to mental stimulation.
So, more reason to get outside and turn off the screen; it’s good for your mental health, your wellbeing and your sleep.