Our circadian rhythm is best described as the natural cycle of mental, physical, and behavioral changes the body goes through in a 24 hour cycle. Often referred to as our “biological clock”, this system helps to regulate our bodies to function optimally within the cycle of a day.
In this blog we will discuss the affects of circadian rhythm and health by examining the underlying hormonal processes within that are governed by it. These hormonal processes can directly affect our mood, mental health, sleep quality, and even our productivity. Understanding how light affects these processes can help us to optimize our lives and improve our overall health.
Light’s Effect on Melatonin Production and Sleep
Light exposure induces many changes in our circadian rhythm, one of the most pronounced being whether or not it’s time for sleep.
The amount of blue light we are exposed to prior to bed can have a surprisingly powerful effect on our sleep. Studies have shown that blue light exposure at night can cause repeated awakenings. This interrupts our sleep cycle and reduces time spent in more restorative sleep, which can lead to a host of other issues, including depression and weight gain.
Most commonly, this exposure comes from our cell phone, computers, and TV screens, so we should really limit if not eliminate them from our bedtime routine. This is because our circadian rhythm governs our body’s natural production of melatonin.
Melatonin is the hormone associated with making us feel drowsy or tired. When our body is exposed to blue light it reacts as if it were daylight, causing us to become more alert, further hampering the sleep process, while actively impeding melatonin production.
Managing our nighttime exposure to blue light is imperative to getting good sleep. We can further aid our sleep by using ambient lighting when winding down. Amber and red spectrum lighting has been shown to help stimulate the production of melatonin. These lights are best used in our bedrooms and areas we commonly relax.
Blue Light’s Effect on Mental Health
While blue light at night can certainly be detrimental to your sleep cycle, during the daytime it can be massively beneficial to your mental health.
Exposure to sunlight and blue light increases the brain’s production of a hormone known as serotonin. This hormone is associated with improving mood, energy, and decreasing anxiety. It is also known to boost cortisol production, a hormone which increases alertness and wakefulness.
Lack of exposure to sunlight and its serotonin-inducing properties can lead to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD generally occurs during the winter months for most, which is the time of year we receive the least amount of sunlight. Those struggling with SAD often find benefit in light therapy, through increasing their exposure to artificial blue light that closely imitates natural sunlight.
How Blue Light Increases Productivity
Although you may not be experiencing symptoms of SAD, you can still benefit from increasing your blue light exposure during the day as it also has been shown to increase productivity by increasing alertness.
Blue light signals to our body via our circadian rhythm that it is daytime, and time to be awake.
Generally, when we are more alert we are in a better mood and more productive. That is why this effect is often utilized by businesses in their workspaces via intense blue lighting.
Those of us who work from home and are seeking similar blue light exposure should be orienting our workspace lighting to take advantage of this effect. Installing blue-light emitting bulbs in our workspaces is an easy way to do so, as is placing our workspace in direct sunlight.
Where to Use Blue Light (and Where Not To)
Light exposure and therefore lighting choices are a governing factor in numerous biological processes controlled by our circadian rhythm. Proper use of lighting can greatly impact our lives by improving our sleep, mental health, and overall performance at work or home. For instance, it’s well-known that red spectrum light has the opposite effect of blue light- it induces sleepiness and relaxation, so it’s ideal to light your bedroom in red-toned lights.
We can adjust our environment to benefit us quite easily by simply changing our lighting choices. One of the best ways to tackle our nighttime and daytime lighting needs is to use a light bulb that satisfies all of them. Luckily, BIOS Lighting provides exactly that with the SkyBlue LED Light Bulb. This bulb emits specific spectrums of light that provide the same circadian benefits of the sun during a 24 hour period.
During daytime these bulbs emit the blue light needed to improve productivity and our mood. While at nighttime, they remove all blue light and dim to a cozier warm amber color to promote melatonin production and better sleep. They were designed as an all-in-one to address our circadian rhythms needs and allow you to reap the benefits of our own biology.
As all of these processes and effects tend to intermingle and affect one another it stands to reason that we should address them all via intelligent, intentional lighting.
- How does our circadian rhythm affect our sleep?
Our circadian rhythm regulates the production of the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for causing us to feel drowsy and in turn sleep.
- Why is our circadian rhythm often referred to as our biological clock?
This is because our circadian rhythm follows a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, just like a clock.
- Can disruption to my circadian rhythm really affect my health?
Yes, as our circadian rhythm regulates and governs numerous biological and hormonal processes within our bodies, including cortisol and serotonin production.
- What can I do to improve my circadian rhythm?
Evaluating and optimizing proper light exposure is one of the easiest ways to improve your health as light directly affects the hormonal processes controlled by our circadian rhythm.