Do you ever feel like a tired, faded version of yourself, drifting through your day as though you’re on a dimmer switch, without enjoying it to the full? Electrically lit office spaces, cramming too much into your timetable, and not getting enough sleep could all be culprits — and finding out about the hidden health benefits of natural light could help restore your glow.
Can light in your living space really change your life?
On top of regular commitments like work and childcare, the social pressure to cram more activities into our schedules is never-ending. Responding to the way of life around us by fitting in with its demands can leave us feeling exhausted, especially when it results in working, exercising or socialising in artificially lit spaces at all hours of the day and night.
It has sadly become all too normalised to go a whole day without seeing the sun — (with a recent study finding that in contemporary urban settings we spend a bleary-eyed 90% of our time indoors!).
Living hectic modern lifestyles sets our body clock at odds with its natural Circadian rhythm, and tapping back into our programmed sleep/wake cycle makes us slumber better, for longer, waking up ready to seize the day with optimized focus. Lacking healthy levels of vitamin D is another consequence of natural light deprivation — which can lead to depression, particularly in the colder, winter months.
As your living space brightens up — perhaps with the aid of a skylight, a modern glass roof or more mirrors to maximise natural light within your property — so will the life you live within it. And as your exposure to daylight increases, you’ll notice the following transformations…
- Better sleeping habits. As your body adjusts to spending time in natural light, you’ll fall asleep more easily, and the sleep itself will be deeper, leaving you feeling more refreshed.
Sleeping soundly is a recipe for feeling like your best self. Interconnected improvements in the way you feel when you brighten up your living and working environments include:
- Longer concentration and deeper focus. It’s no wonder with our round-the-clock lifestyles that so many people struggle to keep their eyes open throughout the working day, and even the strongest of coffees is no replacement for a good night’s sleep. Supercharging yourself with better quality sleep could become your secret weapon in the boardroom and beyond.
- Kicking low moods to the curb. We all feel happier when we’ve spent time in the great outdoors, especially if it involves basking in sunlight. In some people however, natural light deprivation can lead to depression, especially in winter. This can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), for which spending time in sunlight is a key treatment recommendation.
Helpful tactics like factoring in time spent outdoors each day can be complemented by accessing natural light at home. Achieving contentment as the elements rage outside is much more possible when the interiors we spend our time in are conducive to relaxation
- Hormone regulation and vitamin D production. Everyone is naturally predisposed to produce melatonin — the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy at nightfall — as the sky darkens, but staying awake until late with the aid of artificial lighting can disrupt this process.
As the natural light in your home works its magic, you’ll start to feel sleepy more regularly towards the end of the day. Relatedly, you’ll also enjoy higher levels of vitamin D, which the body needs access to sunlight in order to produce.
There are many physical health benefits to having sufficient levels of vitamin D. Of its many positive effects on your general overall health, you’re likely to experience some improvements, including…
- Flourishing hair and nails. Glowing skin, gleaming hair and fingernails that don’t split at the slightest provocation — these signs of wellbeing are all within reach. Linked to the body’s levels of vitamin D is its ability to produce keratin, which makes for thicker hair and more robust nails. As your inner health improves, you can take pleasure in these feel-good outward indications.
- Stronger bones and teeth. Sufficient access to light also contributes to healthy bones and teeth, as the vitamin D we produce helps the body absorb calcium from food — a mineral which gives the bones and teeth their sturdy structure.
A lifestyle which doesn’t allow us enough sunlight for healthful vitamin D production can put us at risk of debilitating conditions involving the weakening of the bones, such as osteoporosis. When your bones and teeth are healthy, they can heal from any fractures much more quickly — and will be far less prone to breakages in the first place!
- A greater ability to fight off coughs and colds. Keeping your immune system healthy is imperative if you want to feel your best, and people with insufficient levels of vitamin D and poor sleep patterns are at increased risk of infection. Every time a cold or flu does the rounds and the box of tissues on your desk remains untouched, you’ll feel increasingly glad of your decision to let more light into your life.
Not everybody has the ability to carry out a home renovation or change their working set-up outright, but an awareness of the benefits of natural light can inspire us to make the lifestyle adaptations that are within our power — from spending work-breaks outdoors to keying others into the benefits of doing away with opaque walls and artificially lit rooms and potentially influencing future building plans. Seeking out natural light wherever you can find it will set you soundly on course for greater health and happiness.
Rosalind Stone writes about the impacts of architectural designs on health for Cantifix — structural glazing with a difference.