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Rosalind Stone

Shoreditch, London, UK

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A new dawn for a new you: the benefits of natural light

Whether your late nights involve sipping cocktails, writing a dissertation or undertaking a physically gruelling form of shift-work, it’s safe to say that they’re increasing the time you spend existing under the harsh glare of artificial light. The electric lighting in your workplace, library or home may be easy on the eye, and you may not feel as though it is damaging your health in the slightest. However, the amount of time we spend awake, due to the possibilities afforded by round-the-clock artificial lighting, sits directly at odds with our natural body clock.

To early modern humans — Homo Sapiens, who lived in hunter-gatherer societies and whose activities and rest times were synced to the rising and setting of the sun — everything about our contemporary lifestyles would seem alien. Especially our smartphones, which have supplanted stone toolkits as our species’ primary survival device. Everything would seem unfamiliar, except — crucially — for our bodies. Although we tone, style and clothe them in all manner of unforecast and previously unimaginable ways, our internal operating systems remain exactly the same.

Just like early humans, we are biologically designed to sleep at nightfall and be active during the day. As we are not programmed to rock around the clock, the significantly disrupted sleep patterns engendered by lifestyles of anytime activity take various tolls on our mental and physical health. Find out more about the healing and protective effects of natural light, and discover what steps you can take to maximise your access to it in day-to-day living.

Resetting your body-clock

Falling out of sync with the world’s natural light/dark cycle — which regulates the body’s circadian rhythm — comes with a multitude of potential health problems, including poor heart health, depression and an increased risk of certain cancers. Likewise, sliding back in step with light and dark has untold benefits for our physical and psychological health. Reintroducing the body to a natural experience of night and day is the best way to access these benefits, which include boosted cell-regeneration and an improved digestive system.

Reset your body clock by getting plenty of exposure to natural light during the day and embracing the darkness come nightfall. Spending as much time outdoors as possible is recommended, and seeking out indoor spaces which are flooded with daylight. Office spaces with large windows and/or glass doors are vastly superior, in terms of their impact on the wellbeing of employees, to those without. Upgrade your light-seeking health drive by making a habit of astutely turning off the artificial lighting in your periphery, whenever you notice that the natural light in the atmosphere is sufficient on its own.

Banish electronics (and electronica!) from your bedroom, creating space for sleep-inducing darkness. The probable suspicion with which our earliest antecedents would regard our collective dependency on smartphones has a biological sensibility at its core. Absorbing the blue light which these devices emit interferes with the production of melatonin — the sleep hormone — which the body produces in response to darkness, meaning that using your phone in bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep, in a biological sense.

Open your curtains to a healthier sleeping pattern. As well as ditching the digital well before bedtime in order to immerse yourself in a calming, dark atmosphere that is conducive to slumber, leaving the curtains or blinds open and sleeping in places with large windows will guide you to rise in sync with the natural light the next day. Goodbye, abrasive alarm sounds; hello effortless early starts! Of course, better yet would be to fall asleep and wake up in a totally transparent setting. For instance, the Photon Space by Cantifix ( ), is an all-glass micro-home designed in collaboration with researchers at Oxford University, which heralds a new dawn in our shift towards healthier living, based on the benefits of natural light.

Replenishing your mind

As well as its host of physical benefits, maximising your daily access to sunlight is a powerful way to befriend your mind, enhancing your capabilities as you move through your day-to-day activities.

Wake up as your most successful self. When you have the backing of a sound sleep behind you, you will discover that there’s very little you can’t do.
Especially in comparison to the sleep-deprived version of yourself, who drifts in and out of anxiety-filled dreams, punctuated by the sound of email alerts. ‘Beauty sleep’ would be more appropriately renamed ‘beauty-and-productivity sleep,’ (or something marginally more catchy!).

Seek the light in your workspace and feel yourself glow about your day with improved focus. From reduced absenteeism to a greater sense of contentment, working with good access to natural light has been linked to a wide variety of professional plus points. This is particularly the case with regard to performance, with studies documenting a positive influence on faculties including memory and agility in completing tasks.

Raise your serotonin levels with natural light for a greater sense of wellbeing. In addition to setting us up for a better night’s sleep, access to natural light in the daytime triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, the hormone associated with happiness. This reduces stress, protecting us year-round against mood disorders such as depression, and especially diminishing the risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the darker winter months.

Renewing your body

Vitamin D is essential for multiple bodily functions, including the growth of cells and bones, the reduction of inflammation (i.e. from injuries or infections), and the absorption of calcium; essential for healthy bones and teeth. With sufficient access to natural light, the body can make vitamin D itself. Living and working in environments where you have the opportunity to catch some rays every day will bolster your body’s vitamin D production, and you’ll reap the rewards of healthy teeth, shiny hair, strong nails and great skin.

In terms of almost effortless ways to enhance your physical and psychological wellness, letting the natural light in really is one of the most feel-good moves you can make.

Tue, 22 October 19 : 13:10 : Rosalind Stone

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    Rosalind Stone

    Shoreditch, London, UK

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