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The Power of Morning Light: How it Impacts Cortisol Levels and Sets Your Circadian Rhythm.

My friend and fellow EEM faculty member - Debra Hurt - is one of those inspirational women who is full of great information and a while ago she brought my attention to the power of morning light.

I'm just back from teaching and Spring is definitely in the air so I'm going to make a pledge to sit outside, come rain or shine, every morning to see just how the morning light influences me!

It feels so right, it feels so natural - why not join me!

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to overlook the simple yet profound impact that natural light can have on our well-being.

Amidst the rush to check emails, grab a quick breakfast, and rush out the door, we often neglect one of the most important rituals of the day: greeting the morning sun.

But research suggests that letting daylight hit your eyes first thing in the morning can have significant benefits for your health and overall quality of life.

Our bodies operate on a delicate balance of hormones and rhythms, orchestrated by our internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. This internal clock regulates various bodily functions, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone production, and even mood.

However, in today's society, with artificial lighting and digital screens permeating every aspect of our lives, our circadian rhythms can easily become disrupted, leading to a host of health issues.

One of the key hormones affected by our exposure to light is cortisol, often referred to as the "stress hormone." Cortisol plays a crucial role in our body's response to stress, helping us to stay alert and focused in times of need.

However, chronically elevated cortisol levels can have detrimental effects on our health, including increased risk of anxiety, depression, weight gain, and sleep disturbances.

So, how does morning light impact cortisol levels and set our circadian rhythm?

When we expose our eyes to natural light, particularly in the morning hours, it sends a powerful signal to our brain that it's time to wake up and start the day.

This exposure to light triggers the suppression of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy, while simultaneously signalling the production of cortisol.

As a result, our cortisol levels naturally rise in the morning, helping us feel more alert and energised.

But the benefits of morning light extend beyond just cortisol regulation. Exposure to natural light early in the day helps to synchronize our circadian rhythm, ensuring that our internal clock remains aligned with the external environment. This synchronization is crucial for maintaining healthy sleep-wake cycles and overall well-being.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that individuals who were exposed to more natural light during the day experienced better sleep quality and overall sleep efficiency compared to those who were exposed to mostly artificial light. Similarly, a study conducted at the University of Illinois found that exposure to morning light helped to reduce feelings of stress and improve mood throughout the day.

So, how can you harness the power of morning light to improve your health and well-being?

First and foremost, make it a priority to expose yourself to natural light as soon as you wake up.

I'm going to make my morning coffee and take it outside (under shelter if it's raining) and aim to sit for about 20 minutes. I'm extremely lucky to live in the country so the silence is broken by birdsong.

Whether it's stepping outside for a few minutes, opening your curtains to let in the sunshine, or even investing in a light therapy lamp, find a way to incorporate morning light into your daily routine.

Additionally, be mindful of your exposure to artificial light, especially in the evening hours. The blue light emitted by screens such as smartphones, tablets, and computers can interfere with melatonin production and disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Consider limiting screen time before bed and using blue light filters or screen dimming apps to minimize the impact on your circadian rhythm. I use f.lux which is a free screen dimmer.

In conclusion, letting daylight hit your eyes first thing in the morning is not just a pleasant way to start the day—it's a powerful tool for improving your health and well-being. By regulating cortisol levels, synchronizing your circadian rhythm, and promoting better sleep, morning light exposure sets the stage for a happier, healthier life.

So, tomorrow morning, why not step outside, take a deep breath, and bask in the beauty of the rising sun? Your body and mind will thank you for it.

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