I recently went to Virginia to visit family. My in laws live on a lake with a screened in porch. We'd typically start the day on the porch enjoying conversation, breakfast, and the morning sun. The rest of the day we'd enjoy walks and runs along tree-lined roads, frisbee golf, swimming in the lake, family meals, and more relaxing and conversation on the porch.
While there I felt like I was sleeping better than at home and I was reminded about a Temecula Ted talk I had watched by Dr. Hizon.(1) He mentioned that a good night sleep begins in the morning and talked about how light affects our sleep. I decided to investigate this a little further and share for friends who have sleep issues.
There are a variety of biochemicals that regulate our sleep and wake cycles and it turns out that light is an important factor in their production and breakdown. Three important and well know biochemicals involved in the sleep and wake cycle are melatonin, cortisol, and serotonin.
Melatonin is a hormone that is made by the pineal gland in the brain. It typically begins to rise in the mid to late evening after the sun has set and helps us to feel sleepy. The level stays high through the night then begins to decline in the morning as the sun rises. Melatonin production is regulated by our internal clocks and by light. Light, in particular blue light, suppresses melatonin production -- which is what you want to help you feel awake and alert in the morning.
Getting outdoors in the morning for a walk or to read, enjoy breakfast, or what not for 20 to 45 minutes can help support a better night sleep. The sun is the best source for blue light and will help suppress melatonin levels and boost cortisol levels which also helps get us going.
So getting outdoors in the morning is a great way to tell the body it's time to gear up for the day. Morning sunlight helps regulate our sleep wake cycle. Some research indicates that morning light is especially beneficial because of the particular frequencies it emits.(2)
Getting out in the morning sun can also be warming. Body temperature also signals our body that it is time to start the day or wind down.
Sunlight also supports serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that supports both mood and sleep. It is a precursor to melatonin, which is needed for restorative sleep.
On the flip side, electronics and artificial lights can emit blue light. This electronic blue light, although much less powerful than the sun, can still fool our bodies and cause trouble at night. Experts suggest using blue blocking glasses and night shifting electronic devises at night to support better sleep. Avoiding electronics 30 minutes for bed is also a good idea.
If you are concerned about sun exposure remember that early morning sun is much less intense than later in the day. Be sure to speak with your dermatologist or doctor if you'd like to get morning sun but are concerned about UV.
In addition to morning sun exposure, exercising regularly, avoiding heavy evening meals and sleep disrupting foods or beverages, having a regular sleep schedule, a soothing bedtime routine, and a comfortable sleep environment can all help support healthy sleep.
If stress or aches are keeping you up essential oils/aromatherapy, herbal preparations, or massage may also help.
Getting out for some morning sun is an easy way to set the stage for a good night sleep. You'll also make vitamin D and support your body in many other ways -- especially if coupled with a morning walk.
If you have questions about aromatherapy, essential oils, herbs, or formulations contact Tricia.
1. Shedding Light on Sleep Dr. Hizon, accessed 7/5/18 at https://www.vexplode.com/en/tedx/shedding-light-on-sleep-jerry-hizon-md-tedxtemecula/
2. Time to Rethink Your Truth about the Sun? accessed 7/5/18 from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/time-rethink-your-truth-sun-jack-kruse/