The Healing Power of Light and Your Well-Being
Light and its Value to You
The value of light and its effect on us is far greater than most people realize. Light plays a remarkable role for maintaining health and general well being. Light is as important a supplement as any vitamin, mineral, or anti-oxidant. Proper exposure to beneficial wavelengths of light is absolutely essential for health maintenance. You can learn how to make the better use of light in your life through a few simple lifestyle changes.
Light is a powerful regulator of the human circadian system, our biological body clock. The circadian clock controls physiological changes that occur with the natural light-dark cycle of the day. Circadian rhythm disorders are among the major causes of sleep disruption and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called winter onset depression.
You can learn more about circadian rhythms by visiting our sections on enhancing sleep, circadian rhythms, SAD, and our section on jet lag.
We are light-dependent beings. A lack of proper daily light levels will disrupt our internal body clock. The circadian body clock responds to a relatively narrow band of blue light known as the “action spectrum.” This blue light action spectrum, interestingly, correlates to the color of the blue sky. This blue light wavelength plays a major role in aligning and resetting the body clock through the control of release of hormones including the sleep hormone, melatonin.
We work in buildings using artificial light that disrupt our circadian rhythms. We drive cars with tinted glass that lowers the transmission of beneficial light. When in the outdoors, many of us wear sunglasses blocking beneficial light from entering the retina. The result; it significantly reduces the light frequencies that we need every day.
How to get adequate light for better sleep, health and well-being
The CalmBlue led glasses included with MindSpa are tuned to the action spectrum and are an excellent supplemental light source. (Read our section under Circadian Rhythms entitled “Using our Blue LED Glasses” for additional instructions.) However, we want to show you how you can take a few easy additional steps that will make a big difference in your life.
The best way to properly set your body clock is simply by getting natural light during the day. We are most sensitive to light in the early morning, generally before 9:00am, and late afternoon. This should not be confused with getting direct sunlight. What you need is exposure to the blue sky. In hot or bright climate, you can sit in the shade as this will allow you still to receive the frequency bands of beneficial light.
Getting adequate light is relatively easy for most during much of the year. However, the issue is most pronounced during the deep winter months and for those living in the northern regions where light is very limited. This is when at least 30-45 minutes of supplemental light in the morning provided by MindSpa can make an important difference to your quality of life.
First step, take off your sunglasses!
If you wear sunglasses often, particularly in the early morning, you may be depriving yourself of beneficial blue spectrum light. We are basically are overusing sunglasses, or using them at hours when natural light is most beneficial to us. It is important to recognize that cutting out blue spectrum light does have an impact on our health and well-being.
Many who work indoors put on sunglasses the moment they go out to compensate for the brightness. When light is blocked in this manner it is sending a signal to the brain that it is night or dusk. This blocking of natural light, particularly in the morning, can result in the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin during normal daylight hours. This can easily result in circadian sleep disorders and can exacerbate seasonal winter depression, commonly called "winter blues."
Try this little experiment…
The next time it is nice outside, when you are in a natural setting such as a park or in the woods, pay attention to your mood and how you are feeling with and without your sunglasses. Pay attention and you may notice a subtle but obvious change in your mood. This will be more pronounced during the shorter days of the year.
It is important to condition yourself to take those sunglasses off when practical. It may be a little difficult at first as your eyes may need time to reacclimatize to natural light but you will desensitize rather quickly.
Wearing a hat with a brim will help since, as mentioned, direct sunlight is not required. Of course, there are times when sunglasses are quite important. You will want to continue to wear your sunglasses in very bright settings and when driving to reduce glare.
If you are in a work environment with minimal exposure to direct light, take your breaks outside even if it is just ten minutes. Keep in mind that many types of commercial window glass block the beneficial light frequencies we require for proper physiological balance. When you are outside during lunch or on weekends, especially when in a natural setting, you want to allow your eyes time to receive that natural, blue sky light. With correct light exposure, you should notice feeling more energized after lunch or breaks.
Winter “Light Loading”
In the winter, when natural light is at a premium, “light load.” In other words, get as much natural or blue spectrum light as possible at every opportunity. Take a morning break and go outside. During lunch walk around even if the light level is low. On weekends make it a habit to go out, especially in the morning, and get exposure to light. And remember, leave your sunglasses off!
Even when overcast and cloudy, while limited, some amount of light in the action spectrum is still reaching your eyes. Supplemental light supplied by MindSpa, especially in the early morning, will be very beneficial. Just choose a 30-60 minute session and wear in bed before getting up with eyes closed, or use in open eye mode while going about your morning routine.
With awareness of why light is so important and how to make the best use of it, you will be able to function at a higher level both emotionally and physically. Just remember that light is a necessary part of a balanced lifestyle. Get outside, get exercise and fresh air, enjoy life and feel better!