How much sunlight do you need? Everyone knows the dangers caused by over-exposure to the Sun, but did you know that not getting enough natural sunlight can be equally as harmful to your health?
Studies recently conducted by the World Health Organization showed that far more health issues are caused by insufficient exposure to light, than there are from getting too much. Adrenal Fatigue could be one of these problems.
Natural sunlight is fundamental to your health in many ways. If you’re one of the many millions of people whose busy lives are out of sync with nature, you may unwittingly be robbing yourself of the one vital source of energy necessary for every aspect of your wellbeing.
Why is sunlight important?
Your body creates most of the Vitamin D it needs from direct sunlight. Vitamin D is important for many reasons:
- It helps the body to absorb calcium, which is necessary for the manufacture of hormones and the proper functioning of the nervous system.
- At least 1000 different genes, governing virtually every tissue in the body, rely on the active form of Vitamin D to do their jobs.
- Vitamin D is important for the optimum functioning of the immune system.
However, we need the Sun for much more than just for the manufacture of Vitamin D.
Light has a profound effect on your natural circadian rhythms. These cycles follow a roughly 24-hour pattern, responding primarily to light and darkness. Circadian rhythms influence a huge range of bodily functions from sleep- wake cycles, to body temperature. When these rhythms go out of sync, a whole host of problems can arise, from sleep disorders to depression and weight gain.
Shift work, artificial light and indoor based lifestyles are only a few of the reasons why so many people are out of touch with their natural flow. With such disharmony, it’s little wonder that as a civilization we’re getting sicker and sicker.
What does this have to do with Adrenal Fatigue?
Everything comes down to rhythm.
Your adrenal glands are part of a larger system that controls your energy and metabolism. This “network” is known as the HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) axis. In healthy individuals, feedback mechanisms gently adjust adrenal hormones so that they can meet the body’s immediate needs. However, if this delicate balance is disrupted by stress, lack of sleep or poor nutrition (to name just a few) the inevitable result is ill health. The root of the problem is caused by a disruption in hormonal rhythms; so it makes sense that the solution must lie in the restoration of the correct pattern.
People with adrenal fatigue are all out of rhythm. Studies show that exposure to natural sunlight could be one of the best ways to “reset” this pattern.
How to use light therapy for Adrenal Fatigue
During the winter months, getting your full quota of sunlight can be hard to achieve. Waking up and coming home in the dark, and working in an environment where’s there’s little opportunity to get natural light is tough. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help re-boot your natural body clock – without having to brave the chilly weather.
Reset your clock
Before the advent of electricity, nature made sure we had lots of cues to keep our natural sleep-wake rhythms in harmony. The most powerful of these cues was the bright light of the rising sun at dawn and the dim orange light at sunset. These changes in the levels of light provided signals to the body to reduce the manufacture of sleep hormones like melatonin, and increase the body’s levels of the “wake up” hormone cortisol.
Nowadays, most people don’t rise and sleep in time with the movement of the Sun, but modern technology in the form of light boxes and dawn simulator alarm clocks can help you reset this pattern. Although not cheap to buy, these products can have real benefits for your adrenal health. If you regularly find your morning wake up routine feels like torture, and getting out of bed is a real chore, the financial outlay may ultimately be worth it.
Dawn simulator alarm clocks
Dawn simulator alarm clocks are fitted with small lamps which gradually brighten to mimic the effects of a natural sunrise. There are some studies to show that this may be effective, but for the product to really work, it’s important to buy an alarm with a really bright light in order to get the best results.
Another option is to invest in a light box. According to research, the best products to buy are those that emit at least 10,000 lux (measure of light intensity.) To really feel the benefits, experts recommend at least thirty minutes of exposure within an hour of waking.
Avoid blue light at night
It’s a well-known fact that short wave, blue light emitted from devices such as I-pads and TV screens can affect the body’s ability to produce melatonin. A good tip is to avoid looking at any phone, computer or TV screens in the hour leading up to going to bed. If you really must answer that email try installing f.lux on your devices. It automatically changes the brightness of any screen according to the time of day, thereby reducing the amount of blue light emitted.
Another tip is to invest in low wattage (under 40 watts) red coloured light bulbs in your bedroom. The colour of the night-lights sends signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
The further you get from Nature, the more likely it is you’ll get ill. By re-training yourself with a healthy, natural sleep regime, you’re building the foundations for better adrenal health.
For more about sleep hygiene, you can also check out The Essential Guide To Sleep Hygiene.