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How light affects the body

Dappled Sunlight
Alex Tyson

Light dictates life on earth. All living organisms grow from light. Without light, there is no life. Light plays a major role in determining our energy levels in the morning, throughout the day and at night time.

When we feel sunlight on our skin, we feel at ease, we feel 'glowing'. If the sun is out and there is lots of light, we feel more happy. When there is no light, we feel more sad. The more light in our life, the happier we are.

Light is the master force deciding when we feel awake or sleepy. 

Light comes in different forms too. Natural or man made. It is everywhere, and affects everything positively and negatively.

We use the term light not only to describe the physical world, but to describe abstract things such as emotion; something that is pure, clean, energy rich we describe as being 'light'. Or to describe something that doesn't weigh much, is easy - whether it be an object or a feeling, we use the term loosely to describe something that is, well, light.

Okay, enough of my trying to sound grand and esoteric. I just want you to understand, light is really important and has fundamental affects on our body. Let's find out how.

What is light?

The full sunlight spectrum spans a wide range of 'light'. Our only source of true light comes from the sun. Stars emits all wavelengths of light.

Light -also known as energy- plays a vital role in supporting good health. Rays, light, waves are all essentially the same thing. Light is typically measured as a wave, which can be measured in microns presented as a µm. This can be transposed into nano-meters or nm. Both meaning the frequency of the wave between one peak and another peak.

Here's two drawings i did on some scrap paper which might help:

Wavelength photo 2-1

Untitled-2.psdWavlength photo 1

This is important as high energy gamma waves are measured in the same way as the colour blue, x rays or radio waves, yet the number which represents the wavelength has a huge impact on whether that wavelength of light is beneficial or detrimental to our health. X-Ray frequencies waves have been shown to negatively affect cell health compared with infrared frequencies been shown to positively impact mitochondrial health. 

Humans can only see a small amount of the light that exists. The visible light spectrum spans from .4µm to .7µm which sits well between gamma rays at 1e^-7µm and AM radio waves which can be up 100000µm or 100 meters in length. 

Our circadian rhythm is what dictates our hormone release within the body. Different types of light can affect our circadian rhythm differently depending on the light frequency and source. When our cirdian rhythm is in sync with mother earth and the light from the sun, our brain secretes hormones based on our natural, internal time clock - our internal rhythm - which is dictated by the sunlight's affect on our body throughout the day based on the sun's position in the sky and light which enters our atmosphere at certain times of the day. 

Exposing ourself to natural sunlight first thing in the morning exposes us to infrared, red and orange light which is extremely powerful in setting our natural time clock everyday. This then impacts our bodily process throughout the day, such as digestion, detoxification, when we're hungry for breakfast and more, all dictated by our first exposure to sunlight which locks in our internal 'clock' resulting in the release of morning hormones. 

How light interacts with the body

Our body has two ways to receive light. We have photo receptors in our eyes and in our skin. Yep, even with our eyes closed, if light is hitting our skin, our body is receiving it. 

Depending on the type of light that lands on our skin and enters our eyes will affect the signals our receptors send to our brain. If the light landing on the skin is midday sun for example, this high energy, full sunlight signals to the brain it's day time and so the brain releases hormones such as serotonin which keep us awake and help us stay stimulated. If the light hitting the skin and entering the eyes is infrared, colourful oranges or the deep reds of a camp fire, this tells the brain it's most likely night time, and it's time to release the sleep chemical melotonin.



Jet Lag

When we travel to another timezone, our hormone release misfires as our internal clock - our circadian rhythm- is still set to the old timezone. All of a sudden the sun is rising and setting at different times to what our body was used to and so our body is releasing hormones based on the old time schedule and not the new time zone we are in. We feel awake at the wrong time and sleepy at the wrong time. It takes a few days for our body to fully adjust to the new time zone and release hormones at the right time and set up up our circadian rhythm to the new time zone. This is one of the reasons we experience jet lag.

Being aware of light throughout the day is critical if we want to experience optimal health. Ever had one of those days where you've been locked in a closed indoor environment all day, then you go outside for the first time at 7pm, it's dark and you just feel all weird... like you missed the day, didn't even see the sun and it just feels odd? This is our body trying to figure out what time of day it is, what hormones to release and what bodily processes to undergo.

Staying in touch with the sun throughout the day gives our body context. Even by pinpointing where the sun sits in the sky helps our brain determine required energy levels, sleepiness, hunger and calmness.

Being conscious of our exposure to light frequencies throughout the day is important, especially at night time given the poor sleep epidemic Australia is experiencing right now. The university of Adelaide published a study showing 48% of Aussies are sleep deprived. One of the leading causes of sleep deprivation is late night tv watching, phone usage and screen time. LED screens are mainly lit by a blue light frequency of 440nm. As our eyes and skin receive this light whilst we scroll facebook, our brains are tricked into thinking that it is day time and so it stimulates us accordingly.

Try ending your screen time 1 hr before you go to bed and turning off half the lights in your house. This alone can have a big impact on the speed with which you go to sleep and the depth of sleep you experience. For more on sleep download our better sleep ebook.

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is in vouge right now because of the positive effects red and near infrared light can have on our body and well-being: Increased collagen production in the skin, quicker muscle recovery and cell autophagy to name a few. However red light therapy also helps balance our circadian rhythm and hormone release.

When we are out camping, we often find ourselves being tired earlier in the day. This isn't because we've 'had a big day out in nature', more so because we have been affected by sunlight in a different way to what we are used to... the natural way. When out in nature we see the last bits of orange, red and infrared light emitted from the sun before it sets and we experience the oranges and reds created by the campfire.... These events trigger a programmed hormone release, making us feel tired because it's the end of the day... not because we went for that hike. This is why red light therapy works so well in helping us calm down, relax and sleep.

We mimic this orange, red and infrared light in our full spectrum saunas. Coupled with colour therapy, we can now offer a full bathing of light in our cabins to signal to the body that it is the end of the day and time to relax. A red light sauna session between 6 and 9pm can promote the release of melatonin in our body earlier and set us up for a deep sleep... provided you don't watch youtube videos on your phone the entire sauna session ;)


RMC-3

Here is our custom sauna at RMC setup for an evening red light session.


Light is important and affects us more than we know. A simple rule of thumb is bright light in the morning, low light in the evening. Whatever the sun is doing represents the light we should be bathing in.

Stay aware of the light you experience throughout the day and notice if there are any changes you can make to help your body stay in it's natural rhythm. 

To learn more about our full spectrum sauna range, go here.

Happy Saunering :)

 


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Disclaimer: We are not licensed health care practitioners and we do not claim any specific health benefits from this information. You are responsible for your own health. Always consult a medical professional before using an iHealth Sauna