An article I read by Madeline Kennedy in the San Diego Tribune recently reported the results of a study on sleep, by lead author, Mariana Figueiro. There was a group of 109 office workers who were studied. During the middle of the summer they wore light measuring devices for one week. They recorded their sleep times and wake times, mood and mental alertness.
Those workers exposed to higher levels of light during the morning hours between 8 am and 12 pm reported better sleep patterns. The subjects also had fewer sleep disturbances, and fell asleep much quicker than those only exposed to low levels of light in the morning hours.
Why is this? Its all about our circadian rhythm… and what is our circadian rhythm?
Our circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of our brains and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s in control of our sleep/wake cycle.
When we notice feeling energized and drowsy around the same times every day, we have our body’s circadian rhythm to thank for that.
How Does Your Circadian Rhythm Work?
It’s controlled by our hypothalamus, a portion of our brain, that is largely impacted by the amount of light and darkness taken in by our eyes.
When it’s dark, our eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Our brain, in turn, sends a signal to our body to release melatonin, which makes our body feel tired. That’s why our circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and nighttime .
The opposite effect takes place in the hypothalamus when we’re exposed to bright light. Both sunlight and indoor light exposure induce greater melatonin suppression which creates greater mental alertness, cognitive performance, and faster reaction time.
In addition to sleeping and waking, the hypothalamus influences your body systems over a 24-hour period. As your environment changes, your internal clock uses these lighting cues to gradually reset yourself.
Circadian Rhythm and Sleep
Your circadian rhythm works best when we have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same time. When things get in the way, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or an evening where we stay up until the wee hours of the morning, we may disrupt our circadian rhythm.
Can you believe that our sleep cycle rhythm takes about one full day for every hour it’s disrupted to reset itself?
What Can We Do To Get Our Circadian Rhythm on an Optimal Schedule?
- Pay attention to your sleep cycle and journal your sleep and wake times for a week
- Go outside in the bright sunlight for lunch
- Take a break during the day to go for a 10 minute walk outside
- Look out a window throughout the day.
- Adjust your sleep and wake time so it is consistent
If we suffer from a lack of quality sleep for too long it may contribute to more serious problems down the road including issues with mood, thinking clearly, decision making, slower metabolism and reduced immune system function.
As Figueiro advises, “Look out a window, seek light during the day, especially during the morning; go out during lunch hour.”
FYI – we highly recommending our Vitamin Spray Sleep Slumber. Just five sprays under the tongue will do the trick. Good for use by any age.