Most people understand that sunlight is an important aspect of human life, but few people know just how important it is to our sleep quality and consistency.
An overview of sunlight and sleep
Throughout millions of years, human beings and our ancestors have evolved to coordinate their sleep cycles with the sun. Picture the scene: you wake up at dawn, inside your cave with your family of hunter-gatherers. You go outside, and you see the sunrise. This signals that your day has just begun. Throughout the day, you execute your daily hunter-gatherer activities, the man joins the other men to go hunt some food. The woman and the children join their counterparts in order to pick berries and fruits for the tribe to eat. You all come back and see the sunset. Now that all of your daily duties and obligations have been completed, and the family is safe, you go to sleep as dusk begins. That was the life of many hunter-gatherer tribes who lived like this for thousands of years, not to mention the previous ancestors, who had similar routines during the day. Watching sunsets and sunrises over millions of years has made our species extremely accustomed to the day and night cycles which have existed since the dawn of earth. This coordination with daybreak and sundown has always benefited us and still does, but now there are external aspects which negatively impact the circadian rhythm of us humans.
What negatively impacts sleep
The greatest enemy of sleep in this day and age is the modern world that we live in. There are many more factors that affect our sleep nowadays as compared to the hunter-gatherer societies of the past. First and foremost, technology is one of the biggest sources of reduced sleep quality in today's society. There are many reasons for this, but let's go over the most important ones. Looking at screens has become a very common and destructive habit in many places around the world. People love
looking at social media, games, videos, movies, series, and much more before going to sleep. This habit is extremely harmful because of many reasons, the first one being the effects of artificial lighting, in particular, blue light. Blue light greatly inhibits your sleep quality because it messes with your internal clock. It makes your body think it is still daytime, thus making you not produce melatonin; the essential sleep hormone of the human body. Melatonin helps you sleep faster, better, and with a reduced chance of waking up at night. This hormone starts to be produced usually after sunset when it is dark, and this is when looking at screens affects you the most. Screens also make your brain very active. Too active. The reason behind hyperactivity is that you are constantly seeing something new, giving your brain no rest and time to slow down. Perhaps a new film, episode. It could also be one of your favourite creator's new YouTube video or one of your friend's Instagram post. It could be millions of short-form videos on TikTok, which keeps your mind extremely alert, as it is being constantly bombarded with new information. It does not matter. These activities accelerate your mind too much before going to sleep. Our ancestors would typically be getting ready to sleep and actually doing it, with nothing impacting their time of sleep.
How sunlight benefits your sleep
The definition of circadian rhythm according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences is the following: “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle”. Sunlight regulates the circadian rhythm. It decreases melatonin production in the morning when you wake up, thus making you more ready and awake for the day. The lack of sunlight provided at dusk helps begin the production of melatonin, making us humans more tired and ready to sleep. After watching millions of sunsets, humans have become used to its colours, which is what causes us to become sleepy around this time.
Although this article is about sunlight and sleep, it is important to mention that taking in sunlight during the day is extremely important as there are many health benefits to it. The sun is the main source of vitamin D for humans, which is a very significant vitamin, as it helps take care of the bones by absorbing calcium, a crucial aspect of human existence. Vitamin D is also good at regulating your immune system, thus making you less susceptible to diseases, and will make you feel better more consistently. These are just some benefits presented by sunlight.
How you should use sunlight to sleep better
Throughout the article, you've seen how sunlight is momentous at making your sleep quality and life quality better. Here are some ways in which you can implement sunlight and related aspects to boost your sleep quality:
When you wake up in the morning, the first thing you should do is go outside and rest in the sunlight for a bit. You can do this in your yard or balcony, as long as they have sunlight. If you do not have one of the two, opening the window and receiving sunlight will do the trick, although with less efficiency. Looks can be deceiving, but this still works when the weather conditions in your area are cloudy, as the sunlight still gets past the clouds, although it seems darker.
Another important habit that people can develop is supplementing vitamin D capsules. Occasionally, pollution in cities inhibits the majority of the vitamin D from reaching your body, and vitamin D supplements will help regulate how much of the vitamin should be in your body.
This habit is a little hard to do due do to our constantly active lives, but it is incredibly helpful to watch sunsets every day. As mentioned previously, humans are used to watching sunsets, as they signal to our body that sleep time is arriving and that it should begin to produce the melatonin for you to fall asleep.
The habits of basking in the sun during the morning and watching sunsets boost your circadian rhythm a lot, improving your life and sleep quality by a lot.
You can boost this even further by sleeping and waking up at the same times every day, as this will help your body know when it is time to do what.
Speaking of sleep routines, do not use your screens for at least 1 hour before going to bed, as the blue light and the content will accelerate your brain and inhibit the production of melatonin in your body. This will make sleeping worse, and more difficult, so just avoid the screens.
If possible, use artificial lighting below eyesight level before sleeping having too many lights on can make your body feel like it is still daytime when you are about to sleep.