Brain Waves with Debra Rose

Lighten Up

Regardless of where you live or the season, lighting will impact your overall well-being.  So why do we pay more attention to light in the winter as opposed to the other seasons?

We are now familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and why symptoms appear in the fall and winter when the daylight hours are shorter.  Our circadian rhythms (the internal regulation of our 24-hour sleep wake cycle) are out of sync with shorter days, which is why we need to pay attention to our light exposure during these seasons.

Bright light exposure means we are less sleepy, more alert, and more vigilant when performing tasks. Mood and cognitive function are directly related to our light exposure, even in individuals that are blind.  Crossing time zones and staying up all night are examples of circadian disruption, and we are all familiar with the variety of symptoms that follow such as irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and headaches.  Over the long term these practices can lead to depression and negatively impact our immune system that may welcome more serious diseases to occur as a result.  More natural light exposure and having lights that mimic nature, we are in better moods, are more creative and can perform on a higher cognitive level.  Just as crucial to our light, is complete darkness when we sleep.  We also need to be aware of the detrimental impact of glare caused by certain surfaces, which counteracts the benefits of light.

While the days grow shorter, we can do our best to keep our circadian rhythms optimal.  Lighting that dims, warmer light for relaxing and cooler lights for focusing are crucial to have at home.  Spending as much time as possible outdoors, all year long is essential for our overall health and well-being.  Even outdoor exposure for twenty minutes to natural light first thing each morning has a positive influence on regulating our metabolism.

Try to eat and sleep with the seasons, which means following the patterns of the sun.  Urban environments prove more difficult to follow this but do your best when trying to regulate your daily routines.  Larger windows, views of the outdoors and more interior lighting are solutions for the days that grow shorter and decrease our daily exposure to sunlight.  We must trust our natural clock and avoid artificial obstacles such as excessive screen time too close to sleeping.  For a happier winter, lighter mood, greater productivity, and optimal well-being, follow the sun as much as possible.