Did you know that having a short walk between 8 and 9am every morning can help your sleep…..even on a dull day?
A few weeks ago, I was listening to Andrew Marr’s Start the Week on BBC Radio 4. In a programme called Searching for Happiness, he interviewed a science journalist, Linda Geddes, who has been researching the science of sunlight and its’ effect on our bodies.
Human beings have worshipped the sun for centuries. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians recognised the healing powers of the sun. In Victorian times, Florence Nightingale advocated fresh air and sunlight for hospital patients to enhance their mood and recovery.
Today, especially in Winter, we spend much of our time indoors or in the dark. We are losing our connection with the sun. We need regular access to sunlight to maintain healthy sleep cycles, for our immunity and mental health.
So what can you do about it on an overcast day in the UK……Read on….
Exposure to natural light in the morning resets your body clock
Most people don’t enjoy the symptoms of jet-lag – fatigue, headaches, indigestion, constipation and poor sleep. Jet-lag occurs when our body clock is out of balance.
Each individual cell in the human body has its own Circadian (daily) Clock. These cellular clocks tell your body when to digest food, how to prepare for sleep, how to regulate hormone production, metabolism, cell repair, blood pressure and many other physiological processes over 24 hours. These individual clocks are kept in sync and controlled by signals from an area of the brain called the SCN. The SCN is stimulated when sunlight hits light sensitive cells in the back of the eye; this advances the clock.
These SCN cells are most sensitive to light from 8-9am and at night. So, if you go for a short walk outside in natural light in the morning, you can reset your body clock. This can have very positive effects on emotional, mental and physical health.
We tend to think that there isn’t enough sunlight in the Winter months in the UK to do us much good. Think again…..
Light (Illuminance) is measured in LUX. The level of light in an artificially well-lit office is about 200 LUX. On an overcast day the level is about 2,000 LUX – about 10 times higher than in the office. On a sunny day in Winter the level is 60-70,000 LUX.
Natural light is the main mechanism used by the body to set its’ Circadian Rhythm. This exposure to natural light in the morning will positively affect your health, mood and sleep.
Bright light from smart phones, tablets and screens confuses your body clock and inhibits your sleep
Exposure to bright light at night, such as blue light from smart phones and screens confuses your body clock. Light at night tells your body it’s morning. It makes the body more alert and suppresses the production of a hormone called Melatonin, which is important for sleep.
People who read an e-book take longer to fall asleep and need longer to wake up in the morning than people who read a traditional book in dim light before bed.
It is recommended that you turn off the TV by 9pm and ‘power down’ for a couple of hours before bed.
The sun can also help our immune system, inflammation and blood pressure
Most people are aware that sun exposure causes our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is good for us. We are also taught that excess sun exposure can trigger genetic mutation and cause skin cancer. What is less well known, is that sunlight also affects our immune system. It can stimulate the production of regulatory processes in the body which can help control inflammation.
Sun exposure also results in the production of natural biochemicals in the skin which dilate the blood vessels and can reduce blood pressure. According to Linda Geddes, a 20-minute walk in mid-summer can reduce your blood pressure by 3 – 4 mmHg – which is significant if you have high blood pressure. Obviously, you shouldn’t stop taking your medication if you have high blood pressure. But it may be that the exercise and natural light from an early morning walk could help you manage it.
Enjoy your walking and sleep well!
Chasing the Sun: The new science of sunlight and how it shapes our bodies and minds. Linda Geddes. 2019
Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life. Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar. 2018
Judy Bowen-Jones MBAcC AFN
Experienced fertility acupuncturist. Registered Member of the British Acupuncture Council and the Acupuncture Fertility Network. Judy holds regular clinics in Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough treating clients for fertility issues, PCOS, unexplained infertility and IVF support. Click here to contact Judy