Want to slumber well and wake feeling refreshed? It’s time to get some light.
As the nights draw in and the days get darker, it’s only natural to crave more time under the duvet. But did you know that lack of daylight through the winter months can actually play havoc vvith your sleep? İn his new book Sleep Smarter: 21 essential strategies to sleep your way to a better body, better health and bigger success (Hay House, £12.99), sleep expert Shawn Stevenson explains that getting more sunlight during the day is key to getting good shut-eye. ‘A great night’s sleep begins the moment you wake up in the morning,’ says Stevenson. ‘Your sleep cycle or circadian timing system is controlled by the amount of sunlight you receive during the day.’ And it seems it’s morning light that’s most important.
YOUR INNER ALARM CLOCK
‘Morning light triggers your body to produce optimal levels of daytime hormones that regulate your biological clock,’ says Stevenson. ‘Too little natural light during the day and too much artificial light exposure in the evening vvill impact your ability to sleep well at night.’ A study on office vvorkers found that those vvho had no access to vvindovvs got 173 per cent less exposure to natural light and, as a result, slept an average of 46 minutes less each night. ‘This sleepdeficit resulted in more reported physical ailments, lovver vitality and poorer sleep quality,’ says Stevenson. Along vvith regulating your sleepAvake cycles, sunlight Controls the release of three hormones key to sleeping well and waking refreshed – serotonin (the happy hormone), cortisol (‘your built-in morning coffee pot’ as Stevenson calls it) and melatonin (the ‘get good sleep’ hormone). ‘Getting direct sunlight outdoors for at leasthalf an hour has been shown to produce the most benefit,’ says Stevenson. Of course, when you’re vvrapped up in winter layers, it’s not easy to get sunlight directly on your skin. But. it’s the action of sunlight hitting your eyes’ optical receptors that triggers the benefits. ‘Even on a cloudy day, your body vvill give you a favourable response,’ says Stevenson. Follow his tips and you can look forvvard to svveet dreams all vvinter.
Want To Slumber Well And Wake Feeling Refreshed? It’S Time To Get Some Light Photo Gallery
1. BE AN EARLY BIRD
When it comes to sleep benefits, all sunlight is not created equal. ‘Your body clock is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning. between 6:00 and 8:30. Exposure to sunlight later is stili beneficial but doesn’t provide the same benefit,’ says Stevenson. Of course, this is tricky during the depths of vvinter, but try to get outside during this prime-time light period.
2. TAKE A BREAK
If you have no natural daylight in your office, be sure to get outside or near a window in your coffee break or at lunchtime, for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Even on an overcast day. the sun’s rays can get through and positively influence your hormone function.
3. LOSE THE SUNGLASSES
Did you know your shades could be stopping you getting a good night’s sleep? To get the benefits of sunlight, it needs to directly hit the back of your eyes. ‘Sunglasses inhibit the natural exposure of light you need to assure healthy hormonal secretions and healthy sleep,’ says Stevenson. ‘So try to avoid vvearing shades in the sun just for the sake of fashion.’
4. FAKE IT
If you’re stuck indoors vvith little natural light, consider investing in a natural daylight lamp. These are often prescribed to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but should only be a top-up or last resort. ‘Although these devices are clinically proven to be helpful, even the best light box vvon’t give you as much phototherapy benefit as 30 minutes outside on an overcast day,’ says Stevenson.