If you’re tying to improve your sleep, you’re setting regular bed times, popping various supplements and ensuring your sleep environment is perfect for an optimal nights sleep. But did you know that what you do during the day can have a profound impact on how well you sleep that night?
In particular, the first hour in the morning can make and break whether you sleep soundly at the end of the day. For optimal sleep, you must decrease your light exposure in the evening. But in the morning you want to do the opposite and ensure you get into a brightly lit environment.
Below I cover 4 reasons why you need morning sunlight to improve your sleep:
1. Light Suppresses Melatonin
Melatonin is great at night when we want to sleep, but when our alarm goes off in the morning melatonin is the last thing we want coursing through our bodies. Research has shown that bright light, in particular containing blue light, can suppress melatonin levels. This is why at night you want to avoid blue light entering the eye by wearing Blue Blocking Glasses. But in the morning, you want to do the opposite – you want to get as much blue light in the eye as possible. In turn this will lower melatonin and snap you out of that morning grogginess state.
The best source of blue light is the sun, as that contains natural full spectrum light.
2. Bright Light Helps KickStart Your Day
Just as light can suppress melatonin, it can also increase cortisol. Cortisol and melatonin work in opposites. When one is high, the other is low. A big reason why you want to avoid blue light at night is because of its cortisol stimulating, melatonin suppressing effects. But cortisol levels should be higher in the morning. We need this surge of cortisol to get out of bed and get into our day. The light helps our body’s create an optimal circadian rhythm.
Studies have even shown that low cortisol in the morning and high cortisol at night can negatively impact sleep, causing that horrible ‘wired and tired’ feeling at night and that groggy ‘just another 10 minutes of sleep’ feeling in the morning. So getting outside in the morning when the sun is rising is a great way to signal to the body ‘it’s day time, we shouldn’t be sleeping, we need to be active’.
3. Sunshine Warmth
As important as light cycles are for our sleep, temperature cycles are just as powerful. Experts who studied the sleep habits of various tribes around the world found one common variable – temperature. Some tribes went to bed early with the sunset, some stayed up late, some got up during the night, others slept right through. But all tribes went to bed as their environment started cooling and woke when the environment started warming.
This is another great reason to get outside in the morning – soak up those warming infrared rays to help signal to the body that day has come.
4. Sunny Serotonin
Every morning, if your body, face and eyes are exposed to sunlight your body will increase its production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates everything from mood to sleep. Serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin. Melatonin is needed for deep restorative sleep. So getting out in the sun in the morning ramps up production of serotonin. In turn, after 12 hours or so, this serotonin is then converted into melatonin – helping us sleep later that night.
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Morning Sun For Improved Sleep
So there we go, 4 reasons why you should be getting outside every morning to help improve sleep later that night. Just remember, full spectrum light from the sun is the best source of light for this purpose. Though light boxes and lightbulbs can help, their intensity is extremely small compared to the power of the sun (and in turn the signal sent to the body is not as powerful).
Also, aim to expose the naked eye to the sun, glasses, windows, and contacts all act as filters – filtering the full spectrum light and messing with signal that the body receives.
Guest post by Alex Fergus