Living in Light: How our Overall Health is Affected by the Lighting Around Us
January 2018 - by Soraa
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Light is all around us, but most of us don’t really think about it on a day to day basis. We may even take for granted how much light fuels our basic needs and functions. There's no shortage of reasons why light is integral to our health, but here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you consider your overall health.
Light Affects Our Vision
The first and most obvious reason natural light is important to our health is that it allows us to see and experience the world around us. Light enters the eye and the brain interprets this signal as light. So, when light reflects off of objects like a flower or even a person, the brain processes that light as images. Just as being outside and looking up at the sun can cause eye strain and damage, being in artificial light that's too harsh or has high flicker (which you can read more about here) can also cause put strain on the eyes, which can sometimes cause headaches and fatigue.
Light Can Improve Our Mental Health
Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD” as it’s often referred to, is a type of depression that affects many people during this time of year, and is a direct result of not getting enough sunlight—which triggers the release of serotonin, the “happy” hormone, into our bodies. Taking daily walks outside in the sun for at least 30 minutes can help improve our mood and mental health. And if going for a morning stroll before work sounds like too much of a hassle, you can always find ways to fit in a quick outside jaunt into your daily schedule. Instead of drinking coffee at the office, take 15 minutes to run outside to your local coffee shop. The fresh air, the exercise, and the sunlight can help you find that afternoon boost to get you through the rest of the workday.
Light Helps Regulate Our Sleep
The body’s hormonal reaction to wavelengths of light is what regulates our circadian rhythm, or biological clock, which affects our cognition, blood pressure, immune system, metabolism, and controls our sleep/wake cycle. Blue light is all around us most of the day from computer screens, mobile phones, tablets, and television screens. Blue light signals to the body that it’s time to be alert and awake, which isn’t an issue during the day when you need to be focused and productive. At night, however, it can become a bigger problem as it suppresses melatonin and disrupts sleep. And not getting a good night sleep doesn’t just make you feel drowsy the next day, it also negatively affects our body fat levels, brain function, insulin resistance, and can even disrupt our appetite.
According to Ivy Cheung, study author and Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Northwestern Medicine, “Light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body. Proper synchronization of your internal biological rhythms with the earth's daily rotation has been shown to be essential for health.”
That's why paying attention and understanding the kind of light you surround yourself with each day is such a crucial part of feeling happy and healthy. And while you can’t control sunlight, you can control the type of lighting that you use in your home to help improve your overall health and happiness.