Cycle Magic – Ever Heard of Light Hygiene?
As I write this, I sit in bed cozied up with my favorite throw, wearing my red-tinted blue light blocking glasses; selenite lamp lit beside me. How lovely, right? This is relevant, I promise.
As women, we have two internal timekeepers, which work together closely; our Circadian Rhythm (the 24 hour internal clock) and the Infradian Rhythm (our ~28 day internal clock that mirrors the moon cycle).
This Infradian clock influences many body systems including your brain, your metabolic fire, your immune function, your gut microbiome, your stress response mechanisms, and of course your reproductive system. If you’d like to read more about your Infradian Rhythm, check out last month’s post here!
What I hope to shed light on here in this post - pun intended - is just how much of an impact sunlight and artificial light have on our body systems and processes and thereby hormonal wellbeing. This information may also highlight just how interconnected our body systems truly are. 💫
The Story of Poor Light Hygiene
Once upon a time, we used to live in a world that relied solely on sunlight by day and candlelight by night and our monthly cycles used to follow the moon cycle closely. Our sun emits the correct light throughout the day needed for us to have a functioning and healthy sleep-wake cycle (Circadian Rhythm). In the morning, the light is warm and soft; gentle for our eyes so that we can transition from our slumber into the rest of our day. At high noon, the sun is its brightest and emits the most blue light; helping us to remain energized throughout the day. In the evening, as the sun begins to set, it emits softer, warmer hues similar to the morning; enabling us to wind down and begin our transition to sleep once more. This cycle is made possible by the communication between the light that surrounds us, our eyes, and the pineal gland, which secretes the hormone melatonin or the ”hormone of darkness.”
This cycle of light exposure represents good light hygiene.
Fast forward past many years of technological advancements to present day, where we not only have sunlight manipulating our waking and sleeping hours, but TVs, computer screens, tablets, smartphones, and lightbulbs; available to us at all hours. Light is everywhere...all of the time and it’s not full spectrum light. It’s mostly blue and green light - That’s poor light hygiene.
Natural Blue vs Artificial Blue Light
There are two types of blue light. The natural kind that comes from the sun and the artificial kind that comes from technology. The blue light that is emitted from the sun is essential to proper sleep-wake cycles and that’s because it is accompanied by a full spectrum of light; the way we are intended to take in light. The blue light that is emitted from the screens on our devices contains concentrated blue light that creates an unbalanced light spectrum and revs up production of stress hormones such as cortisol. This concentrated blue light (without the healthy balance of other hues within the natural light spectrum) has been shown to increase our stress hormones and keep them elevated throughout the waking hours. This can lead to chronically high levels of cortisol, which can contribute to metabolic dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, and adrenal fatigue. In other words, artificial blue light is a real bummer.
Note on light intensity - The shorter the wavelength of light, the more intense the energy of that light. Blue light has a very short wavelength and thus emits a higher, more intense energy, whereas red light has a much longer wavelength and emits less energy.
Timing of Light Exposure
The timing in which you experience light throughout the day also has major implications on sleep quality. Not-surprisingly, this sleep cycle disfunction and disrupted Circadian Rhythm can go on to affect many other body systems (because we are beautifully complex, holistic beings).
Too bright of light in the morning (like your phone screen or even high efficiency light bulbs) can incorrectly signal your internal clock that it is later in the day than it actually is and can then set you up for earlier melatonin release (think afternoon energy slump). Bright light in the evening delays and suppresses melatonin production which can lead to sleep disregulation and restlessness. Neither of these scenarios paint a healthy picture for the body; hormones in particular. There is a goldilocks balance to achieve when it comes to light exposure and we can gather insight from nature’s perfect balance of sunlight and darkness as outlined above.
Melatonin + Conception
As one can imagine, good slumber habits can help reduce stress levels and low stress levels make good conditions for conception. Proper melatonin production has been shown to improve the likelihood of egg fertilization and embryo viability. Perhaps this is due to the fact that melatonin initiates growth and repair mode, in which dead cells and waste are cleaned up and removed from the body. A clean vessel encourages a healthy pregnancy!
This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and is secreted at its highest levels during sleep. When sleep is poor, production of this important hormone is suppressed. Specifically, this disruption can lead to PCOS and issues with ovulation, which can lead to menstrual cycle imbalances and issues with fertility - responsible for more than just milk production!
So how can we clean up our light hygiene?
*an oh so important step in balancing hormones and improving overall wellbeing
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
This is probably not the first time you’ve heard of blue blockers - glasses that shield your eyes from some or all blue light and are excellent for lessening digital eye strain. These are a super easy way to reduce your blue light exposure and are especially important early in the morning and after sunset. These are the glasses I was wearing whilst writing up this little post (as glasses girl is on top of her light hygiene...most of the time). You can also find blue blockers in our Amazon Store!
There is research that shows that our skin’s relationship to blue light is also very important. Remember - when blue light dies down in the evenings, your pineal gland begins to produce melatonin so that your body can transition into growth and repair mode. Well, your skin also absorbs the light you’re exposed to. That being the case, if your skin is taking in a lot of blue light, even if you are taking the proper precautions and protecting your eyes from excess blue light, melatonin production can still be suppressed. Shortened melatonin cycles mean shorter growth and repair cycles, which can lead to the appearance of aging. So, take it from me and slap on some facial sunscreen, especially if you have a job that requires a lot of time on the computer! This is the one I use.
Happy Light for SAD
Sometimes the winter months aren’t so generous with their sunny days, especially in Rochester NY. So it can be helpful to supplement with some “artificial sunlight” and I don’t mean a tanning bed. I’m talking about a full spectrum light that you can use midday for a little energy and mood pick-me-up! You can find the one I use at my desk, along with color therapy glasses in our Amazon Store.
Products to help you wind down 💤
This is the most important time of day to clean up your light hygiene. When the sun goes down, it should prompt a change in your environment as well. Bright lights should be turned off or dimmed where possible. There are lightbulbs that are an excellent choice for the bedroom, living room, or wherever you spend a lot of time in the evenings. This is a great option for a light bulb that is still bright enough to go about normal activities. This one is great for your bedroom or baby’s nursery for nighttime feedings - babies deserve good light hygiene too!
100% Beeswax Candles emit a really nice spectrum of warm colors and can help you wind down and fall asleep; just make sure to blow them out before you do in fact fall asleep! Only YOU can prevent home fires 🐻
In good light hygiene,
Ally or Glasses Girl (blue blocking of course)