How exposure to light can better your health

We all need to see the light. Sunlight—and the vitamin D we receive from it—is important to our health and wellbeing. In fact, science has long made the connection between bone health and vitamin D.* But now there is now mounting research showing its importance in easing depression, helping heart function, and slowing the progression of dementia and some cancers.*

Light therapy using indoor light boxes can also mimic natural light, and emerging studies are showing similar health benefits. Check out these five ways light can keep you healthy:

You can spend a few minutes in the sun (using sunscreen) and still absorb vitamin D

Dr. Anne Marie McNeill of the Skin Cancer Foundation says spending 10 or 15 minutes in sunlight (with sunscreen) a couple of times a week will allow for important vitamin D absorption. Make sure you avoid between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for maximum sun safety.*

Bright light therapy may ease depression

A 2011 study found that three weeks of bright light therapy given to 89 seniors with depression improved their symptoms by 54 per cent. Their cortisol levels also dropped and sleep improved. Participants used a “light box” in their homes for one hour per day, devices which are now widely available.*

Enjoying some morning sunlight may keep you more alert and improve sleep

The sun plays a significant role in our sleep cycle, with research demonstrating that when our bodies feel the sun, they stop producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. That can lead to more daytime alertness and less trouble falling asleep.*

Bright light therapy may also decrease insomnia

If morning sunshine to help with sleep isn’t an option, the above mentioned bright light therapy may make a great artificial substitute. The Sleep Foundation suggests using a light box every day, at an intensity and length of time as determined by your doctor. Like the sun, the light box can help to re-set your body clock, leading to better sleep.*

High-tech indoor lighting can improve your health and safety

A high-tech light bulb system installed in an American seniors’ community is helping to improve residents’ moods and sleep, as well as preventing falls in the night. Residents reported less eye strain too. The bulbs change colour throughout the day to provide different tones and levels of light that sync to the body’s circadian rhythms. The motion-sensor lights automatically fade from a cool bluish white during the day to a warm amber at dusk.*

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. Osteoporosis Canada. “Vitamin D.” (Undated), online: https://osteoporosis.ca/bone-health-osteoporosis/calcium-and-vitamin-d/vitamin-d/
2. Harvard Health Publishing. “Time for more vitamin D?” (September 1, 2008), online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/time-for-more-vitamin-d
3. Skin Cancer Foundation. “Sun Protection and Vitamin D.” (May 14, 2018), online: https://www.skincancer.org/blog/sun-protection-and-vitamin-d/
4. WebMD. “Bright light eases depression in elderly people.” (January 3, 2011), online: https://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20110102/bright-light-eases-depression-in-elderly-people
5. NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). “Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood.” (August 20, 2019), online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751071/
6. Sleep Foundation. “Light Therapy for Insomnia Sufferers.” (December 11, 2020), online: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/light-therapy
7. The Sacramento Bee. “Why light is so important to seniors’ health.” (June 5, 2017), online: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article153571429.html