Rise and Shine: Set Your Body Clock to Natural Rhythms for Better Health

Work with your natural rhythms to be happier, healthier and more rested.


| November/December 2011


Light and dark have a direct effect on our hormones, influencing sleep and wakefulness, mood, energy levels and even health. Regulated by a “master clock” known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), our bodies are genetically programmed to follow the movements of the sun and the earth, sleep researcher Roger Cole says. But living in the modern world has distanced us from the cycles of day and night, which researchers are finding could negatively affect our health and happiness. By working with our natural rhythms and controlling our interaction with light, we can keep our spirits and energy levels high as the days get shorter.

The SCN, which controls our 24-hour circadian rhythm, is kept in time by the alternating light and dark of day and night. If you lived outdoors, morning light would fall on your retina, signaling the SCN to raise your body temperature, release the hormone cortisol and suppress the hormone melatonin, all of which would help you wake up naturally. Later, when it got dark, the SCN would tell the pineal gland to release a flood of melatonin, making you sleepy. Provided the light is dim, melatonin levels would stay high all night.

Living in a modern house can interfere with these natural rhythms. Even with the lights on, it’s 50 to 100 times dimmer inside than it is outside during the day, Cole says. When the sun goes down, electric lighting can delay the melatonin surge, especially in those of us genetically prone to be night owls. In urban areas, light pollution—the glow created by lights on buildings, cars, signs and more—can prevent or reduce melatonin release and interfere with sleep. But managing the light in your house will help keep you rested and healthy, and maintaining your master clock is deviously simple: Keep your house light when it’s light outside and dark when it’s dark outside.

Sunny Day

Sky blue light is the best at signaling your body to reset its clock in the morning. Just 10 minutes of morning sun will do the trick. Read the paper on a sunny porch or start the day with a walk around the block. If your bedroom windows face east or south, Cole recommends leaving the shades open at night so you can catch the sunrise. If you need privacy, consider top-down shades or café-style (half-height) interior shutters so the top of the window is open to the sky. If your bedroom doesn’t have a sunny window, skylights or light tubes could help bring in sunlight. For dark, cold or wet mornings (or if you need to block out nighttime light pollution), consider a sunrise alarm clock—a light that slowly brightens before you wake up—or full-spectrum lights—light boxes designed to treat seasonal affective disorder. (Look for one that’s 5,000 or 10,000 lux and that screens out UV rays; see Resources.) Or use both, setting a timer to switch on the bright light when the alarm clock reaches full intensity.



Peaceful Night

Research indicates that nighttime exposure to electric light reduces production of the cancer-fighting hormone melatonin, which could negatively affect our health. Studies have found that women who work the night shift, such as nurses and flight attendants, have breast cancer rates 60 percent above average. And a recent study led by researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel found women who live in communities with high light pollution are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live where nights are dark.

To regulate your melatonin levels, decrease your dose of light inside after the sun sets. Avoid bright light in the evening, especially the blue light emitted from television and computer screens and bright white LED and CFL bulbs, Cole says. A few strategically placed lamps with red-hued (Kelvin temperatures from 2500 to 3000), low-watt bulbs are a good bet, especially if they’re on a dimmer. If drastic measures are necessary, go for red darkroom bulbs or wear glasses that block blue light in the evening (lowbluelights.com). If you live in an area where light pollution is a problem, use blackout shades to keep bright light from entering through windows.







mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265