Many of you have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder and may even know someone who experiences it, especially in the dark days of a Vancouver winter. This condition is caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, inability to concentrate and sleep problems.
Take heart, there is ‘light’ at the end of the tunnel!
Health Benefits of Full Spectrum Lighting
Full spectrum lights display the entire wavelength of light, from infrared to near-ultraviolet. This type of lighting seeks to duplicate the light from the sun, which is considered full spectrum. All living organisms need the benefits that natural sunlight gives, but it may not always be practical or possible to be exposed to the sun’s rays. These indoor lights dependably give off the full spectrum of light, regardless of the weather, time of day or atmospheric conditions. Many health benefits are associated with these lights.
1. Relief from Seasonal Affect Disorder – By introducing the full spectrum of sunlight, mood is enhanced and spirits are lifted.
2. Visual Clarity and Color Perception – Full spectrum lights imitate the sun’s rays at noon. This clear, brilliant light decreases eye strain and fatigue.
3. Vitamin D Absorption – Vitamin D deficiency usually happens due to lack of exposure to the sun’s beneficial rays.
4. Stimulation of the Pineal Gland – This gland produces melatonin, which regulates normal sleep patterns.
5. Mental Alertness – This is a result of establishing a regular sleep pattern by the stimulation of the pineal gland.
6. Improvement of Mood – Generally, full spectrum lights give people a feeling of well-being.
In moderation, sunlight improves your immunity, prevents disease, increases intelligence, stimulates your metabolism, and boosts your energy level.
Specifically, the full spectrum of the sun’s light rays has been shown in medical and scientific studies to:
• Positively influence your risk of getting sick (there is a preponderance of evidence suggesting that decreased sun exposure is closely related to your risk of acquiring the flu, a common occurrence particularly during the colder months).
• Lower your blood pressure (in fact, the farther from the equator you live, the higher your blood pressure).
• Even help babies sleep better at night (this is great news for you parents out there).
The problem is that getting adequate sunlight isn’t easy these days. Most of us suffer from “sunlight starvation.” We all need about one hour of unfiltered sunshine each day. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t even come close to receiving that amount.
So what’s the deal?
To begin with, when light enters your eyes, it not only goes to your visual centers enabling you to see; it also goes to your brain’s hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is so important to the body’s functioning that it is known as the brain’s brain. This means that it controls the part of the nervous system regulating automatic and metabolic processes in the body. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger and thirst, water balance and blood pressure. It links the nervous system to the endocrine system.
Additionally, it controls the body’s master gland, the pituitary, which secretes many essential hormones. The hypothalamus initiates the body’s stress response, affects our emotions and controls immune functions.
Significantly, our “body clock” is also housed in tiny centers located in the hypothalamus. Our body clock-controlled circadian rhythms are the 24 hour cycles of light and darkness.
These light-sensitive rhythms are not an invention of modern society. They are biological constructs imposed upon us by Mother Nature.
Consequently, anything that disrupts these rhythms (like inadequate sunlight) has a far-reaching impact on our body’s ability to function.
This explains why, since sunlight has been shown to be the most effective regulator of the body clock, it is also the quickest method of recovering from jet lag. (Or you can supplement sunlight with full spectrum lighting indoors.)
But it gets even more interesting. In 1998, scientists found that they could reset the body clocks of study subjects by shining bright lights onto the back of their knees. This demonstrates that areas of the skin are significantly affected by light, just like the retinas of our eyes. This led researchers to conclude that the body may have more than one body clock, although the eyes still seem to be the main route by which the circadian system senses light.
So why the anatomy lesson?
Well, the body clock control centers in the hypothalamus are also connected to the pineal gland, which is considered the body’s light meter. The pineal gland secretes the important hormone melatonin.
Melatonin, the “hibernation hormone”, increases with decreased light, which explains that tired feeling that comes on when it begins to get dark outside — even if it is only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. And it also explains why decreased melatonin is found in those with insomnia (and why full spectrum light is beneficial for healthy sleep).
Conversely, serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light, and falls with decreased sun exposure.This has been proven by many scientific studies, including one reported in the well-respected medical journal Lancet in 2002. This study measured blood levels of serotonin, finding that production of serotonin by the brain was directly related to the duration of bright sunlight.
This has been proven by many scientific studies, including one reported in the well-respected medical journal Lancet in 2002. This study measured blood levels of serotonin, finding that production of serotonin by the brain was directly related to the duration of bright sunlight.
What’s more, full spectrum lighting has even more benefits…
Studies have shown that poor lighting in the workplace triggers headaches, stress, fatigue and strained watery eyes, not to mention inferior work production.
Conversely, companies that have switched to full spectrum lights report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors and decreased absenteeism.