Artificial Light


Since World War I, we have been moving our clocks 1 hour back every fall and going through the same routine of trying to adapt to time change.  At 2am on Sunday, November 7, daylight saving time will end.  We tend to become more fatigued earlier as our bodies slowly adjust to the time change.  Although one hour seems like a very minor switch, our body clocks take a few days to adjust to the new sleep schedule due to the shorter days and longer nights.

Our systems signal us to “wind down” around the time that the sun sets.  Scientific studies have presented us with sufficient evidence showing how our sleep-wake cycles are tied to the earth’s rotation around the sun.  Although we probably don’t think about them, there are many benefits of relying on the patterns of natural light, rather than artificial, as a guideline for our sleep cycles.

Artificial light  

Before the electric light bulb was invented, people relied on the sun to see.  Human beings have functioned in sync with sunlight and darkness for thousands of years.  Although one could use fire to light their way if necessary, the convenience of flipping a switch to light a dark room was an unknown luxury.

This modern convenience is surely one of the reasons that people go to sleep far past the time that their body’s natural instincts would tell them.  When lights are on, our brains are manipulated to believe that it’s time to be awake when it is actually time for the body to rest and rejuvenate.

There are many effects of artificial light; positive and negative ones.  The problem arises when our day ends as late as 11pm, causing our bodies to dip into our energy reserves. Artificial light stimulates the release of cortisol, therefore depleting growth and repair hormones that are supposed to be active and released during our  sleep cycles. Even worse, a poor choice in a late night snack containing sugar and starchy carbohydrates may compound this effect as well as causing extra calories to be stored in fat tissue.

Our 24/7 access to artificial light does not change the fact that our internal body clocks are set in tune with natural light/dark cycles.  The convenience of electricity is undeniable and most of us can’t imagine life without it.  However, we must understand that not functioning in step with the earth’s orbit around the sun easily results in neglect of the rejuvenation process that happens when we go to sleep.

How does your body respond to light and dark?  

There are vital psychological occurrences that happen in our bodies throughout a 24-hour period.  Depending on the time of year, the sun generally rises around 6:30 am.  When you are exposed to any type of light, cortisol is released into your system and you are alerted that it is time to be awake.  After 9am, the cortisol levels start to decrease and after 6pm, our systems switch to a release of the opposite hormone.  This hormone is called melatonin and will assist the body to grow and repair itself.

Automatic repair during sleep

Our body goes into automatic “repair mode” during sleep.  Around 10pm to 2am physical repair of the body is taking place.  Then around 2am until 6am psychological and mental repair verve kicks in.

Consequently, it’s very important to be sleeping a majority of the time between 10pm and 6am.  If one neglects hours of sleep within the time period for physical or mental repair, one or the other is experiencing neglect.  For example, say you’re a night owl.  You may think it’s just in your nature to go to bed at midnight.  However, you are depriving your body of the physical healing process, and shouldn’t be surprised if you’re that person who gets sick all the time.  Your body is TELLING you that it’s being neglected.  Listen to it.  On the other hand, if there is a job or any other reason that requires you to get up at 3 or 4 am, your body is surely not going through it’s proper process of mental repair.  We often see that people who awaken this early on a regular basis are more prone to stress headaches, sluggishness, and even neurological disorders.

How is a women’s menstrual cycle effected by a faulty circadian rhythm?  

  I’d like to say a short word specifically to women  on this topic.  Sleep is of vital importance when a female experiences hormonal changes.  On top of headaches, cramps, fatigue, etc., ladies can surely confirm the negative effects of being short of sleep while on their menstrual cycle.  These effects range from a delay in the cycle, heavier flow, more painful cramps, and sometimes the cycle lasts longer than usual.  The female body of certain age goes through major changes from month to month.  This makes her tired even if she’s not sleep deprived.  One on top of the other surely takes a toll on one’s energy and health!

What are the best times to exercise?

We regularly witness our clients experiencing greater fatigue and difficulty concentrating when they are sleep deprived. We also found that exercise performance is better at different times of the day.  While one person will have an excellent work out at the start of their day, another might struggle with getting going early in the morning.

Athletes generally experience greater performance at track workouts after 5pm.  The body is completely relaxed and its temperature has warmed up the joints in a more uniform manner, therefore making it easier to move and reducing injuries.

In conclusion…

Go to bed at 10:30 at the latest, and practice some basic breathing exercises before sleep.  This helps the body relax with sufficient oxygen and relieves stress.

It is ideal to eat dinner no less than three hours before going to sleep.  When you eat shortly before bed, your system is too busy to rest while trying to digest a meal.  Have a light snack one hour before going to bed if you go longer than three hours without food.  This will help you maintain your blood sugar levels within safe limits.

I hope that you have gained a better understanding of how important sleep is. Adjust your schedule and routine as necessary to give your body the rest it needs to stay healthy!  You will personally notice a positive difference when your body gets enough “repair time”.  You will feel vibrant and have sufficient energy to focus and finish your day well!

Please let us know if you have any questions on this subject.  We are here to assist you in reaching your goals for a healthier lifestyle!

“Keep on moving!”

Luis Ponce Sr.

(408) 778-5577

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