How Light Affects Our Bodies and Our Health

Light is a powerful tool in regulating many different processes in our body and brain. Here are a few ways that the light all across the spectrum can help – or hinder – our health. 

Vision: Light is obviously closely related to vision capability and health. Light entering the eye is crucial to sight. Too much light, or the wrong kinds of light, can be detrimental and harmful to sight, however. Too much squinting into the sun can cause eye strain and fatigue. Harsh, artificial lights, like those that sit overhead in plenty of offices and workspaces, can also strain eyes, leading to migraine attacks and fatigue. 

Mental and Emotional Health: Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD” is a type of depression that affects many people during the time of the year where, due to cold weather and daylight savings contributing to it getting darker earlier outside, leads to a reduction of exposure to light. Light is one of the factors that triggers the release of serotonin into our bodies and plays a huge role in mood regulation. Getting exposure to sunlight by taking short walks outside during the day can greatly improve mood and mental health. In areas where it’s too cold to brave the outdoors, people often buy “sun lamps” to use for a few minutes each day to mimic the effect of exposure to sunlight. 

Sleep Regulation: Light has a huge impact on regulating other bodily systems. The body’s hormonal reaction to wavelengths of certain types of light regulate the circadian rhythm, also known as the biological clock. A healthy, well-regulated circadian rhythm affects cognition, blood pressure, immune system, metabolism, and controls the cycle of falling asleep and waking up. Blue light, for instance, signals to the body that it’s time to be awake and alert. This is great during the day, but difficult at night because blue light suppresses melatonin and disrupts sleep. Exposure to blue light from computer screens, smart phones, tablets, and TVs all day and into the night can create sleeping problems, which lead to fatigue and the inability to focus clearly the next day. 

Paying attention to the kind of light that you expose yourself to each day is important in managing your overall health. You may not be able to control sunlight, but you can find alternative ways to increase your light intake. You may not be able to avoid screen time as much as you want, but blue-light reducing glasses can help reduce the impact of blue light’s negative nighttime effects. Taking small steps to balance your light intake will go a long way in creating healthier habits with a big, long-term impact.

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