New research suggests bright days and dark nights are key to better mental health
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Daily light exposure could affect your risk of depression, anxiety, and more, according to the largest-ever study on light exposure and mental health.
The study of over 85,000 people found that those exposed to more daylight and less artificial light at night tended to have lower rates of major depressive disorder, PTSD, psychosis and self-harm behaviours. They also reported better mood and well-being overall.
On the flip side, those exposed to bright light during nighttime hours were significantly more likely to experience these mental health issues. It's become evident that light is not just a convenience but a fundamental factor in human well-being. Poor lighting, as the study suggests, can even be considered an environmental risk factor for psychological disorders.
“Once people understand that their light exposure patterns have a powerful influence on their mental health, they can take some simple steps to optimise their wellbeing. It’s about getting bright light in the day and darkness at night,” said lead researcher, Associate Professor Sean Cain, from the Monash School of Psychological Sciences.
How light impacts our mental health
The reason has to do with our circadian rhythms, the internal biological clock. In addition to influencing mental health, this natural rhythm governs crucial bodily functions, including sleep, immune response, cardiovascular activity, and metabolism. This system relies on daily exposure to sunlight to synchronise with Earth’s day-night cycle.
What sets daylight apart?
What sets daylight apart is its spectral composition, specifically the presence of light in the blue-sky region of the spectrum. This particular wavelength serves as a powerful regulator, orchestrating a symphony of biological processes that keep us in sync with our environment.
Recently, Apple unveiled a new feature on the Apple Watch that measures your time spent in daylight, reflecting the growing awareness of sunlight's importance for health.
“Once people understand that their light exposure patterns have a powerful influence on their mental health, they can take some simple steps to optimise their wellbeing. It’s about getting bright light in the day and darkness at night,.”
Conventional lighting falls short
According to the authors of the study, we now spend roughly 90% of the day indoors, where electric lighting is too dim during the day yet too bright at night. While they may adequately illuminate our surroundings, artificial lighting sources fail to emit the robust daytime signal that our bodies rely on. As a result, many of us find ourselves in a chronic jet-lag-like state, with far-reaching consequences for our mental and physical well-being.
Brighter days and darker nights are key
It all boils down to a simple yet transformative idea: "bright light in the day and darkness at night." When we receive ample daylight during the day and embrace darkness at night, our internal clock is strengthened, ensuring that our body operates optimally.
At Osin, we use cutting-edge technology to mimic the biological benefits of daylight. Learn more.