Light has always been associated with positive emotions. In summer, when the days are longer and there is therefore more light, the joy seems to multiply. There are no more unforgettable moments than those we spend by the sea, on wonderful sunny days, at a picnic in the mountains or simply on a terrace soaking up the sun.
Summer and spring, with their light, are times of development, adventure and experience; a counterpoint to autumn and winter which, with their rain and their shorter days, encourage us to return to the refuge of our home.
Just as our mood and energy fluctuate with the seasons, they also do so with shorter cycles like day and night.
Light and natural cycles
The hypothalamus is a small region located in the deepest part of the brain called the reptilian brain. It is a fundamental structure responsible for regulating basic life processes, such as body temperature, ingestion of food and liquids or libido, in addition to regulating emotions. We are hungry, thirsty, anxious or quiet… depending on the hormones that this part of the brain secretes.
Like everything that affects the brain, it is a very complex structure and it is known with certainty that one of the most influencing factors in the function of the hypothalamus is the light perceived in the environment. .
The brain has evolved in the hands of nature; It is therefore “natural” that he understands, when he is flooded with sunlight that the day corresponds to the time of activity and that the night, when the light disappears, is attributed to the moments of rest and regeneration. Currently, however, these times are no longer fixed. With artificial light, we can be awake until the early hours of the morning.
This alteration in natural cycles disturbs our internal clock and affects our health.
Not respecting natural cycles affects health
Our body and our internal clock were made to respect the cycles of light. During the day, it is necessary to receive sunlight to maintain optimal energy levels. Artificial light is not a substitute for sunlight. This is why in many cases, fatigue overwhelms us and we feel that we need a coffee to get better.
Over time, a lack of direct sunlight increases the risk of developing depression. It is for this reason that in winter, when the days are shorter and it is dark when we leave work, it is much more common to be depressed. In addition, the sun is the most important source of vitamin D, essential for, for example, to fix calcium in the bones.
Another amazing example about the power of light over our body relates to the way we wake up. Normally, we set an alarm for a specific time in the morning and this suddenly interrupts our sleep. We turn on the bedroom light, switching from night darkness to daylight in a fraction of a second.
In nature, sunrise is a gradual thing, and our brains are programmed to wake up that way. With the gradual increase in natural light, the brain gradually wakes up and gradually leaves the dream world. Not respecting this principle is the reason why we stay longer under the sheets and have a lot of trouble getting up in the morning.
Beyond the fatigue that we feel when we get up, this way of waking up causes us to drag out this exhaustion all day long, in addition to causing stress, because the natural sleep processes, so necessary for good rest and good regeneration, were not done correctly.
Regulate the internal clock
Here are some things we can do to regulate our internal clock:
- Try to adjust your schedules, as much as possible, to natural cycles, listening to your body. Some people are more active in the morning and others in the afternoon, but staying up late at night has never been positive.
- During the day, try to spend as much time as possible in natural sunlight. Since this is a complicated thing in the routines of modern life, try to spend at least half an hour every day in the sun.
- Make the environment around you as dark as possible a few hours before going to sleep. Turn on as few lights as possible and, if you can, avoid bright screens.
- Try not to wake up suddenly. Since it is almost impossible to wake up with the light of the sunrise, since it does not adjust to our schedules, a good solution is to obtain so-called “gradual sunrise” clocks. These are alarm clocks that gradually light up the bedroom until the moment we have to get up, imitating what an actual sunrise would be.