Sleep, health, and artificial circadian lighting
Who doesn’t feel better after a good night’s sleep? It’s one of our favourite topics of conversation and when we haven’t slept well our personality and demeanour change which is noticeable to those around us. So it’s in everyone’s interest for us to sleep well and reap the many and varied benefits of a good night’s sleep.
So why don’t we sleep? The chances are it’s because modern living and its relative pressures and stresses are shaping our habits and interfering with our sleep. Since humans began to walk on this earth we have been governed by the sun rising and its setting. Now however, with a 24 hour society, we are constantly encouraged to artificially extend our days into the dark hours just to get everything done or to find time to have fun.
This pressure may seem manageable however, the real story is not so clear. Noticeable increases in serious health problems such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia and autism, to name just a few, has been attributed to out of sync circadian rhythms or as it’s more commonly known, our body clock.
The body clock regulates many hormones including cortisol and melatonin which in turn regulates how alert we feel and body temperature. The changes in intensity and colour temperature of natural daylight happen seamlessly across the course of the day however, we cannot ever hope to fully reproduce this with artificial circadian light.
We are however, much closer to this utopia than ever before as the evolution of LED has enabled light to be produced which is significantly closer to natural daylight than ever before. Close enough in fact to actually effect the body’s response to light. So we can now help address the balance between spending too much time indoors and our bodies need for light to set its clock.
So if you want to ensure you are helping your body be as healthy as possible then read on about the key role the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) plays in our health and well-being and how best to harness the power of light.
Think of it as indoor daylight. Using LED (light emitting diodes) with a control system it is now possible to artificially create a full spectrum lighting effect which can change colour and intensity over the course of the day. Brilliant!
Humans, plants and animals all need daylight to sync our natural biological clocks so we can remain healthy. Since electric light has been in our lives we spend more and more time indoors and less time out in a natural environment. This has led to increases in illness and can even cause health and well-being problems. Using artificial circadian human centric lighting enables us to being to address this and to help our bodies function more normally and improve our sleep patterns. Who doesn’t want better sleep, right!?
The main benefit is an improvement and regulation of our sleep/wake cycle. Quality sleep is incredibly important to health, after all we all know how out of sync we feel when the clocks change for British Summer Time or if we have ever experienced jet lag.
What we doesn’t seem to realise is that any change in regular routine can give us the same effects but we don’t attribute feeling tired or cranky to that lay in we have at the weekend or the late Friday night out on the tiles.
Our bodies favour regularity for our sleep, eating and movement habits. For instance, eating late at night can throw our bodies into chaos as the hormones our liver produce to digest food may directly conflict with the ones our brains (the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus or SCN) is producing telling us to sleep. The short term result might be heartburn, indigestion or broken sleep but if this behaviour continues it begins to affect every cell in our bodies in a negative way therefore impacting on our general health.
The amount of areas of life which can be improved by properly regulation of our circadian rhythm or body clock are numerous. Some of the major ones are listed below however, it can be assumed that any health related issues can be addressed to a degree with better sleep, eating and movement behaviours brought about by exposure to the right light at the right time.
The modern way of living is in fact negatively impacting our health and well-being with every passing day. After all how often do you leave your desk for a walk or time outdoors? When do you walk to work or take a proper lunch break outside? So how you get your body to synchronise is compromised and then we wonder why we don’t sleep well or feel lethargic.
Each cell recognises light and therefore exposure to natural lighting where possible and an enhanced artificial circadian light when indoors will being to address the imbalance and can improve many areas of life.
Absolutely, but not in isolation. As with anything in life no one thing can keep you healthy or make you fitter. It is the regular application of several elements which over time produce the best effects. When we are exposed to light and the type and intensity of that light is the key. The news has been full of the “blue light” issues of the devices we use at night that are interfering with our sleep however this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how light affects us.
This website and our continued research into this field will hopefully help to keep you informed and give you a helping hand to make informed choices to improve elements of your life you may have not previously considered as important. Light is just there, its taken for granted but perhaps we need to think about why its there and what it means to life itself to truly understand its benefit.
All of our bodies’ cells either have their own clock genes or link into a part of the body that does. So every part of us is trying to synchronise with each other. These clock cells even tell time when removed from the body and are put in a petri dish to observe, they still keep ticking.
They are important for keeping all of our bodies functions working and for keeping us healthy on many levels. These cells feed into our major organs – liver, kidneys, heart, stomach, etc. – and then feed into our main body clock, the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (the SCN) in the brain.
The SCN is fed information from the organs about what is happening internally but is also fed from the non visual forming photoreceptors in the eye which are called ganglion cells. These cells were only recently discovered and work adjacent to the rods and cones to feed the brain information about the colour temperature and intensity of light hitting them which allows the body to know what time of the day or night it is.