How Light Affects the Brain

 

Have you ever wondered how something as simple and commonplace as the light that surrounds us can influence our body chemistry and state of mind?

In recent years, the impact of light in our lives has been dissected and analyzed. Where once no connection was known between the light you see and your brains response to that light – now the connection is much more fully understood.

The two key hormones relevant here are serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness, while melatonin regulates your sleep-wake cycle. For most people this particular combination gets attention only when it gets out of sync. The ideal setup is a high serotonin in the day and a high level of melatonin at night.

But with melatonin production being particularly sensitive to the light we receive – too much and too little can have big impact.

So what is the ideal light regime to ensure our brain keeps our hormonal levels at their optimal level?

Sunlight in the early morning that lasts until early afternoon activates a series of hormonal reactions in the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, which then promotes the diverse actions of the body and health. These actions are what allow us to feel alert, focused and attentive.

But too much of anything is usually a bad thing and if we continue with this quality of light (most specifically the blue-enriched light found in computer monitors and TVs) into the evening then melatonin production is inhibited and sleep becomes harder to find.

Of course, not all of us have access to good quality sunlight during the day, what with our office jobs, our time in classrooms, in shopping malls or any of the myriad of other indoor locations we spend our day in. For this reason, many people are looking critically at the quality of the light they receive while indoors. When you know it’s starting to affect your body’s hormonal balance, it tends to become that much more important.

The problem of getting good quality daylight is even worse for people in Nordic countries and Arctic region where the sunlight is less, and here mood swings and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are well-known conditions.

For those that want to explore the quality of light they are exposed to during the day, our Viva-Lite international partners (and online store) are happy to talk with you.

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