Seeing the Light May Help You Sleep Better - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 26, 2015

Seeing the Light May Help You Sleep Better

Seeing the Light May Help You Sleep Better

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You wake up before the sun. Commute to work. Take care of business at your desk all day. Rush out to the gym or home at 5 p.m. Eat dinner. And then get sucked into your favorite TV show or gadgets until you finally fall asleep and start the grind all over again.

This is what many working people’s days are like, where seeing actual daylight is rare. While this schedule may be what it takes to make a living and support a family, there’s one thing it isn’t supporting: your sleep.

That’s because not being exposed to enough light during the day can disrupt the system that helps you fall asleep and wake up – your circadian rhythm. It’s this bodily system that controls the release of hormones to help you fall asleep and wake up.

We’ve long thought that darkness was the biggest trigger to help us drift to sleep, but in fact, being exposed to light also plays a big role in determining when you will be able to fall asleep for the night. A recent study found that employees who work near windows get nearly twice as much exposure to sunlight as those who go without natural light during the day. The employees who sat near windows got about 46 extra minutes of sleep every night.

Getting a big dose of light early in your day means a reward for you at night – that bright light in the a.m. sets of a chain of hormonal reactions that leads to the release of melatonin in the evening to help you feel sleepy.

Skipping out on sunshine in the morning can mean this release of melatonin being delayed – leaving you tossing, turning and staring at your clock until you finally pass out. Over time, this results in sleep deprivation.

Just because you’re stuck working at a desk nowhere near a window, plenty of quality sleep isn’t out of your reach. There are a few simple things you can do each day to ensure you’re well rested.

Follow the light

The brighter the sunshine you expose yourself to, the stronger your circadian clock will be. So get outside, preferably early in the day, and soak up the sun.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time

Yes, even on the weekends. They can vary by about an hour, but keeping your sleep and wake times regular will also strengthen your circadian rhythm. And that means you’ll be more likely to immediately snooze when your head hits the pillow, no matter what day of the week it is.

Put your gadgets away

Just like sunlight impacts your circadian rhythm, the light emitted from your laptop, TV, smart phone and tablets affect it too. Exposing yourself to this light at bedtime delays the release of sleep-making melatonin. You should aim to put them away about an hour before bed. Simply removing these devices from your bedroom will remove the temptation to be drawn into them. You’ll thank yourself when your alarm goes off the following morning and you feel well rested and ready to take on the day.

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