It’s no secret our body reacts to different levels, colors and types of light. We are meant to feel tired when it’s dark and more awake when it’s bright. Biodynamic lighting options are being developed to work with our body clocks to make us better, healthier and more productive. How does lighting, natural or man-made, affect our body clocks?
Lights at Home
Studies have recommended that exposure to bright lights makes people more awake and energetic by neutralizing feelings of tiredness. This depends on many factors, including the duration and timing of exposure to the brighter, more intense light. People subjected to bright light throughout the day were normally more awake even after a brief amount of rest and had a measurably better night’s sleep.
Among the greatest tests our body clocks try to adjust to is working and functioning at night. This could be fixed with high intensity light however our brains naturally generate melatonin during the night. If this is altered or interfered with for long periods of time, it can cause or worsen health issues.
Our homes are the most important place where we should have proper, healthy lighting. We spend the most time at home, and it includes sleep, which hopefully we get a healthy span of, at least on average. Having the right lighting and habits using lights before bed and when waking up is important to good sleep and overall health.
Blue light is the light that keeps us feeling awake which can impact sleeping during the night. Blue light is sent out from smartphones, tablets, television and computers. The more blue light there is the tougher it is to sleep. Current studies discovered a direct relationship in insomnia and light levels in the evening and night.
Using dimmable lights can help you go to sleep at night as it helps put your body into a restful state by simulating the sun setting. A body clock is not designed to have a big difference in lights on, then lights off, and be naturally ready to sleep. Likewise, a slowly increasing light can assist us waking up in the early morning as it simulates the sun rising.
How Light Affects Sleep
Light has definite effects on rest. Light is a part of our natural circadian rhythm, sleep cycles and hormones.
Circadian rhythm is a fancy way of saying our natural body clock. We’re supposed to have a 24-hour biological rhythm that works with a variety of procedures in the body, including sleep. This rhythm is controlled by a small part of the brain, called the circadian pacemaker, that is influenced by light – be it natural or artificial.
When light goes into the eye, it is sensed by the retina, then the brain and this gives instinctual information, and body functions, about the time of day it is. The brain sends signals throughout the body to regulate organs and make everything function in accordance with that time of day.
When or if we were to be in just natural light, a person’s circadian rhythm becomes very closely synchronized with sunrise and sunset. We would naturally be awake during the day and rest when it’s dark. In modern culture, though, we have an abundance of light sources that influence the brain’s circadian pacemaker.
The way light changes the body clock relies on the timing of light exposure. When light is perceived early in the early morning, it changes a normal sleep schedule one way. When there’s more light exposure at night before sleeping, it alters it the other way.
Excess synthetic light, oddly timed light or specific lights such as blue light can mess up a person’s circadian rhythm. This can toss their sleep or day-night senses out of sync. It can also cause health consequences. People who do not sleep well are more subject to weight gain, cardiovascular problems, poor metabolism and cancer.
Body clocks are connected to mood and mental health. For instance, seasonal affective disorder commonly affects people who live in locations with cold weather and short days. Decreased daylight can disrupt circadian rhythm.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally made by the body. Its production is closely linked to light. In response to darkness, the brain starts production of melatonin, but bright light slows or stops the process.
We feel sleepy when we have a higher melatonin level. It’s a natural function of our body. Daily cycles of melatonin normalizes a body clock, giving us a consistent sleep schedule.
Not all sleep is always the same. In a normal, healthy sleep span, a person has 4-6 sleep cycles, each of which lasts 70-120 minutes. Those cycles are made up of numerous sleep stages, including REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep.
Light exposure at night can prevent the proper sleep cycles, reducing the quality of sleep. You might experience waking too often during the night and a lack of restorative sleep your body is meant to get.
What Kinds Of Light Affect Sleep?
Any type of light can impact sleep, however not all types of light have the exact same effect.
Natural daylight is more intense than the brightest man-made lights. Natural sunlight is about 10,000 lux. A bright interior light is about 500 lux. Daylight has a huge impact on a body clock.
There can be important differences in kinds of artificial light also. Some kinds have more illuminance and brightness. Some have different wavelengths. For example, blue light has a short wavelength and is sent out by many LED lights. Studies show it has a considerably larger impact on melatonin and body clock than light with a longer wavelength. Digital devices, such as phones, tablets and laptop computers, send out blue light, and their extensive evening usage can contribute to sleep problems.
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