The 7 ways Light effects your life that I doubt you considered?
Every day, we are bombarded by different things that are affecting our health. But there is something that all of us are surrounded by for several hours every day that can have a big impact both ways on our health and well-being: LIGHT!
Light can be our best friend or worst enemy so how can we harness light to our advantage rather than our detriment.
Light affecting foods vitamin content and spoiling oils
Seasonal affective disorder SAD
Blue and artificial light
Vitamin D absorption
1 - Light destroys vitamins and spoils some foods!
Before I get to the classic blue light and SAD conditions which need addressing let’s look at some indirect ways light is affecting us.
Light, as well as air, the handling of and cooking of foods can dramatically diminish the potentness, volume and quality of vitamins in our food. Green peas can lose half their vitamin c content 1 or 2 days after picking as they are cut off and exposed to light. Why is it that olive oil comes in a dark green bottle? The answer is simply to reduce light exposure and keep the vitamins E (a powerful antioxidant) content as high as possible during storage! So the next time you read the words ‘store in a cool dry place’ listen!
The reverse can be seen in some foods such as Mushrooms that absorb UV and synthesis it to create VitD thus there is increasing study that exposing mushrooms to sunlight maximises their concentration of vid D which as will see later has huge benefits..
Light can even affect how hungry you are. A recent study found that “blue-enriched light exposure, compared with dim light exposure, was associated with an increase in hunger that began 15 minutes after light onset and was still present almost two hours after the meal.”
This could explain why you’re getting the late-night hunger pangs. If light really does affect hunger, then being exposed to artificial light could be telling your brain that it’s time to have a midnight snack.
This is yet another reason to dim the lights if you like to stay up late. It won’t just make you hungry. You can also throw off your metabolism.
3. SAD Mood
The most common way that light affects mood is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some people are affected more than others when winter comes and the days become shorter. This change in circadian rhythm can cause symptoms of depression in those who get a boost in mood from the sun.
Most people also spend less time outside during winter. The short days mixed with spending more time indoors lead to much less exposure to the sun. Blue light specifically is believed to increase alertness and improve performance in some tasks. One study even showed that blue light activates executive functions in the brain.
However, there is a dark side to blue light.....
4. Blue light - Sleep & Mental Health
Blue light will keep you awake. This is becoming more of an issue because of smartphones and other mobile devices. It’s even believed to be causing more cases of insomnia because it suppresses melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. The extra blue light that we’re getting throws off our circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep. A circadian rhythm is a “roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings”
Before artificial light was invented, our bodies had natural circadian rhythms. We slept when it was dark and woke up when the sun came up. Our bodies have not yet fully adapted to artificial light and the modern work schedule and likely won’t for a long time.
Because of this, it’s best to spend the last hour or so at the end of your day in dim light so that you can fall asleep quicker. This means dimming the lights in your home and staying away from your smartphone, tablet, and computer. This can be a big ask nowadays so try cutting down gradually and having at least 15mins to prepare for bed rather than literally checking your last insta post before pulling up the duvet. Your alarm clock light and TV standby light can even keep you awake. Turn it away from you so that it doesn’t shine in your eyes. It will also keep you from looking at the clock if you’re having trouble falling asleep.
If you still have trouble falling asleep, try reading or meditating before bed, even some light stretching (no pun!) can help relax
Let look at the positives - How can we harness light for the good of our wellbeing?
5- Vitamin D absorption
Vitamin D is facilitated and created in the presence of UV light which then circulates around the body and performs various functions such as helping the immune system work properly and works together with other vitamins to help mineral absorption. It’s also responsible for good bone health and hormone regulation. Remember vitamins and minerals work together to keep the body healthy, not in isolation, so loading up on one vitamin (often synthetically such as tablets) isn’t always the answer.
6- Energy release
The interaction between vitamin D and B12 vitamins is a perfect recipe production helping the body create and release energy. The sun helps calcium and other minerals that play a part in energy production create ATP which is the catalyst for cellular energy, so no sun, no spark.
7- Circadian rhythm
Waking up in the morning and keeping the rhythm for the day can be quite difficult for some people and although we have night owls and morning lark personality types the first expose to the sun fro the day often sets the standard. Therefore getting a good dose of morning sun will kickstart the process and have you naturally dosing in the evening as melatonin rises and you start to fall asleep. If you are taking in late afternoon sun consider that to be the time to don the sunnies!
So the next time you look at the sun (not directly of course! figuratively) think about its power to give and take when it comes to your health and wellbeing.