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Shining Light on Sleep

Typically, I like to sing the praises of darkness as it relates to good sleep, but right now I am going to switch gears and talk a little bit about light and how it can also help our bodies sleep.

Different Types of Light

Light is the most important outside influence affecting sleep. It has dramatic effects on sleep, impacting the circadian rhythm, melatonin production, and sleep cycles. While most people typically know that it’s easier to sleep when it’s dark, the link between light and sleep is also very strong. Nearly all light can affect sleep, but not all types of light have the same impact on sleep. Some types of light have the ability to decrease melatonin levels and make it more difficult to get to sleep, such as digital screens (blue light) or LED lights. Other types of light can help set and regulate our circadian rhythm and greatly influence our sleep patterns, such as daylight.

Electronic Light is Not the Same as Daylight

When exposed to plenty of natural light during the day, a person’s circadian rhythm becomes closely in sync with the sunrise and sunset making it natural to stay awake during the day and sleep when it’s dark. However, in this day and age, electronics have made their way into our everyday lives which can start to affect the circadian rhythm and interrupt a person’s natural sleep pattern if used excessively.

Working Natural Daylight into Your Day

Getting some time in the morning with the sun is a great way to help set your and your child’s circadian rhythms. Going for a 30 minute morning walk or sitting on the porch while reading or eating breakfast are great ways to incorporate daylight in the morning. Also make sure to open up the windows and blinds on days when morning walks are not as easy to fit in. Getting outside in the afternoon is another great idea to get a little more exposure to sunlight. A park date or another 30 minute stroll will do wonders for your child’s sleep.

Getting outside for at least 30-60 minutes a day is ideal to help keep sleep patterns consistent. What if it is an overcast day and the sun is not out? Still make sure to get outside! Even when filtered through clouds, the sunlight will continue to have an impact on our circadian rhythms.

Something else to remember when encountering the daylight, is it is best to have direct exposure to the sun. If it is warm enough make sure the sun is hitting your skin, but even in the colder months when you have a jacket on, the sun hitting your face will do wonders. Sunlight should also have direct contact with your eyes so that your brain can register the light, so make sure to take those sunglasses off during your outdoor encounters.

Making a regular schedule with a consistent wake time, along with exposure to sunlight, is an extremely powerful combination when it comes to healthy sleep. We also know that life is busy and hectic, and getting out twice a day might not be a possibility for everyone’s schedule every day, especially in the colder months, so you might have to be intentional about looking for alternative ways to incorporate daylight into your routine. One way to do this is through light therapy.

Light Therapy

Light Therapy uses a high-powered lamp at scheduled times to help retrain the body’s internal clock. The strong lamp is meant to mimic daylight and is often used in the morning to set circadian rhythms. It is suggested to sit in front of a 10,000-lux light box for 20-30 mins of a day sometime in the morning or mid-day to be affective. Here are a few different light boxes that we would recommend! Nature Bright Sun Plus Touch, Carex Day-Light Classic, Verilux Happy Light Lumi Plus

So, what was the take away here? DO NOT underestimate the power of daylight when it comes to helping with sleep troubles! Here are your TIPS to remember around daylight and sleep:

  • Get exposure to daylight within an hour of waking

  • Get outside 30-60 minutes a day

  • No sunglasses

  • It is best to get direct light on skin, not through glass

  • If you can’t get outside, light therapy for 30 minutes a day in the morning can help

  • Outside daylight exposure is still affective on cloudy days!

If your little one is  getting plenty of exposure to daylight during the day, but is still having sleep difficulties reach out to us at sleepwellsleepspecialist@gmail.com to set up a free sleep evaluation to see how we can help!

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

Laura

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