Our biological clocks are set in response to many natural phenomena. Light, temperature, exercise, and eating all help align our clocks to the correct time of day. In addition, our social schedule and some of our medications can also influence our biological clock. Of all of these, light is by far the most potent cue. Natural cycles of light and darkness are the signals to your body that trigger the release of hormones related to sleep and wakefulness. Our natural biological clock is slightly longer than 24 hours, and it resets each morning to begin a new day. Your best bet for correctly aligning your clock and recalibrating is getting exposure to bright light first thing in the morning.
What is so Special About Morning Light?
Morning light is extra special. Getting exposure in the morning resets your biological clock and signals the beginning of a new day. In addition, the morning light seems particularly rich in the blue light spectrum. That makes it especially powerful.
How Can I Use Morning Light?
The best thing about morning light is that it`s one of the easiest ways to have a dramatic impact on your sleep health! Just 20 to 30 minutes of exposure helps assure that your biological clock resets correctly. Here are some simple ways to get that crucial morning light:
- Eat your breakfast or read the newspaper outside
- Take the dog for a walk
- Go for a walk or a run
- Water your plants or tend your garden
What if I Can`t Get Outside or the Sun isn`t Out Yet?
For those who can`t get outside, don`t forget to turn up the lights inside your home in the morning. If the sun is out, opening the blinds is another way to get the much needed light exposure without leaving the house. Every little bit helps! Another excellent way to increase your exposure to morning light is to use a light box. Light therapy boxes are available in stores and online. They should produce at least 10,000 lux and can be positioned about 3 feet away from you and off to the side as you perform some of your morning activities, like reading the paper or eating breakfast.
What if it`s Cloudy?
Sunlight not required. Even on a cloudy day, the wavelength of light visible will register with your brain and signal a new day. A little longer exposure might help make up for the diminished intensity. Overcast skies are no excuse for staying indoors in the dark!
Can Morning Light Help Improve Depression?
Light therapy may have a role in the therapy of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD occurs when sufferers experience depressive symptoms during winter months, when there is less natural sunlight available. This condition seems most prevalent for people living at more northern latitudes.