The Impact of Light
Light has a huge impact on the quality and quantity of sleep you're able to get. Being intentional about the kind of light you are exposed to during the day can make a big difference.
In this podcast episode we explore why light affects sleep, how to use that knowledge and a few simple strategies you can try immediately to improve your sleep.
Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson - If there's a better book out there on sleep, I haven't found it. "When it comes to health, there is one criminally overlooked element: sleep. Good sleep helps you shed fat for good, stave off disease, stay productive, and improve virtually every function of your mind and body. That’s what Shawn Stevenson learned when a degenerative bone disease crushed his dream of becoming a professional athlete."
Smart lighting that can be used to natural light, getting brighter during the day and dimming in the evening. These colored lightbulbs can also be a great tool to reduce blue light in the evenings which is detrimental to sleep.
Disclaimer: ARO Wellness Wednesday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
Welcome to the first ever episode of ARO Wellness Wednesday. The podcast where I give you a quick actionable piece of information in only 10 minutes that can improve your health, wellness or recovery from training and exercise. In this first episode I'm going to introduce myself, tell you a little about me, a little about what we're doing here on this podcast and then jump straight into our first topic. We're going to talk about how light impacts sleep and not just in the ways that you would expect we're going to talk a little about how morning light can impact your sleep in the evening so stay tuned for that. First a little about me my name is Nicky Ruszkowski, I'm 36, originally from the UK and now living in Upstate New York. I have my master's degree in health education which I studied at Ithaca College here in the US. My bachelor's degree is in sport and exercise physiology and my background is in sport. For many years I rode horses professionally, was a part of the British under 21 squad and have several national titles to my name. About 10 years ago I decided that my days of show jumping and doing that professionally were over. It wasn't making me happy anymore and I made the choice to spend more time teaching getting my bachelor's degree and then eventually my master's degree. I came to the US for grad school and did hope that I would love it here, and want to make the US my home. Once I'd been here only a couple of weeks I knew this was where I wanted to stay.
During the time I did my master's degree and really my whole life up until about five years ago, I had always struggled to exercise routinely. When I was riding horses full time that was my exercise, but anything beyond that, training, running, anything more than riding horses I couldn't get into. I was like so many other people, I'd start some kind of exercise regime and four weeks later I'd have dropped it. I did that for so many years and about a year after finishing my master's degree I moved to Syracuse, New York and I started running. I made the really smart choice to join a local running group and that was a turning point in my life. That was the point where everything changed it has been nearly six years now where exercise and training, and now competition have become a more and more fundamental part of who I am. With that growth there are so many other things in my life that have really come together.
My real passion lies in helping people implement change in those areas that often get missed. I believe so strongly that what's needed to make long-term change in your life is implementing small, really small changes, building them into a routine and eventually through this asset building approach these behaviors become a part of who you are. So what I want to share in this podcast are small actionable things that you can do in your day, that you can add into your life hopefully in most cases without significant overhaul of your life and that ultimately by implementing these small changes adding in small things to your life to your day you can end up making significant life change. That has very much been my story I've implemented small things into my day and those small things once they become routine they add up into real life change. I've seen this work, I believe in it and so in each episode I'll take something that you could potentially add into your life, I'll review the literature and the research, I'll sum it up in a concise manageable way and then give you something that you can, if you choose add into your life, build into your routine and hopefully the result will be real positive change to your health your wellness or maybe your recovery from exercise. In some of these episodes I'll bring in guests, I am certainly not an expert on every topic but I am very capable of examining the research on different topics and then presenting that to you. If there are instances on topics that I think somebody else can explain it better then I will be bringing in guest speakers. I would also love your feedback as we go through this. I am always looking for new topics to cover so please reach out to me if you have any suggestions on anything you'd like to see covered or anything that's worked for you. To reach out to me or to access our episode notes you can go to our website arowellness.com, we spell ARO a-r-o today. This is likely going to be our longest episode, I've taken this time to introduce myself on the podcast and now we move on to our main content, light and sleep.
The kind of light that we're exposed to can influence anything from body temperature to metabolism and certainly to sleep. So many people don't get enough sleep or don't get enough good quality sleep. Sleep has such a significant impact on both our physical and mental health our relationships and our recovery from training and exercise but I need to start off by explaining our circadian rhythm. This is our internal 24-hour clock this is also sometimes referred to as your sleep wake cycle a part of your brain called the hypothalamus is what's responsible for controlling your circadian rhythm within the hypothalamus are the suprachiasmatic nuclei which are two small paired nuclei where our biological clock is located. This is the part of the brain that's responsible for keeping our circadian rhythms as close to the 24-hour cycle as possible and it can actually even do that without those external cues from the light. If you put somebody in a room with no external light and no way of telling the time they could actually still maintain a circadian rhythm of about 24 hours, it wouldn't be ideal, but it would still happen. But it certainly is significantly impacted by factors like the light and the dark. When it gets dark outside your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus, that sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, a hormone responsible for making you feel tired. Your circadian rhythm is supposed to align with the cycle of light and dark daytime and night time. The problem is technology has decoupled us from this natural 24-hour cycle. Now our highest levels of energy, our daily peak of energy, actually isn't supposed to occur in the morning it's supposed to happen mid afternoon. This second wind is supposed to keep us going and keep us awake as the day wears on. When we get exposure to light after the sun has gone down it shifts this clock so that we actually get that second wind much later. It delays the onset of melatonin secretion.
What you might not know is the color of the light that we're exposed to in the evening really matters. Much of the light that comes from our technology our tv and our light bulbs is a blue light. This is the most disruptive to our circadian rhythm, melatonin secretion and our sleep than any other color of light. Now a far better color of light to be exposed to in the evening and at night is a red or an orange light. It doesn't affect us in quite the same way. What I think is particularly interesting though is that when we're exposed to light specifically sunlight in the morning, it can have a really positive impact on our sleep. It helps to calibrate a circadian rhythm almost like a reset. In the morning if it is artificial light that we're exposed to it's far better for that to be the blue light. Even better is to get outside between the hours of 6 a.m and 8 a.m and get some sunlight ideally during this time you want to spend 30 to 45 minutes getting direct sunlight and getting that exposure into your eyes. So it's actually better to not be outside wearing sunglasses, and know that sunlight coming through a window does not have the same effect. A really good option here would be to combine getting that sun exposure with also getting some exercise. So what about getting outside for 30 minutes for a walk within an hour of getting up or you could sit on the deck, in your backyard, read your book, have your breakfast, it doesn't matter as long as the light is hitting your eyes directly. When we can build routines we also really benefit our sleep and those routines are also important when it comes to being exposed to the light. I'm all about building routines and building habits, that's what this is all about, finding small things that you can do and implementing them into your day, things that you can do that don't take a lot of time and building consistency and building a habit. So it's even better to know that this habit building, this routine building, that I'm so keen on also really benefits your sleep. When you can get outside every morning ideally for 30 minutes and get some exposure to the sun get the sunlight to your eyes and do that routinely, that's where you're going to see the most benefits. So we've talked about morning light and we've talked about evening light.
Let's sum up, in the morning you want exposure to sunlight you want to try and get outside and get that sunlight to your eyes ideally for 30 minutes. This helps start the day by getting your circadian rhythm on track as the sun goes down we want to interfere as little as possible with this internal 24-hour clock and what that means is we're going to limit exposure to technology as much as possible. This podcast is all about small changes so me telling you that when the sun goes down the lights go off and you don't touch any technology, not realistic, but what you can do is be mindful of how this artificial light impacts your sleep and you can make small changes you pick what works for you. Maybe it's turning off technology 30 minutes 45 minutes earlier than you normally would, maybe it's changing the light bulbs in your bedroom to red light bulbs, maybe you go all in and change all the light bulbs in your house so that you have the ability to dim the lights. We have hue lights in our home and I love those because I can set them on a routine so that when the sun goes down it changes the color of the light it also gradually dims the light I'm using our artificial light in our home more like what we get from the sun so it slowly dims and it doesn't then have such a significant impact on the release of melatonin.
Thank you for joining me for this first episode of ARO Wellness Wednesday. I hope that this has perked your interest and that you would like to hear more. If that's the case, subscribe to this podcast through your podcast platform. If you're new to podcasts you should know that subscribing is free, all of these episodes will be free to listen to and it'll allow you to get access to new episodes every Wednesday as they come out. Thank you for tuning in.