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Sleep Well: Melatonin, Serotonin, and the Healing Power of Sunlight

Date Sep 2023
Category health/lifestyle
Time reading 4 minutes
Woman sleeping

Let’s cut to the chase, we don’t prioritize good sleep. Whether it’s because we’ve got a big project at work to finish or we’re just regular night owls, we’re not getting the sleep we need. And getting enough restorative sleep is essential for peak performance and our overall health.

That’s why it’s important to understand how our hormones and sunlight play a part in our sleep. When the sun sets and your day comes to an end, the pineal gland in our brain activates, starting the melatonin production process. This signals to our body that it’s time to sleep. 


Sunlight's Impact on Melatonin: The Importance of Light Exposure

Melatonin, the 'hormone of darkness,' is responsible for signaling to our body that it's time to sleep. The production of melatonin kicks in when the pineal gland in our brain responds to the darkening environment. However, our exposure to light, especially sunlight, during the day plays a significant role in maintaining our natural sleep rhythms.

If you're exposed to bright artificial light at night, it can mess with your melatonin production, making it difficult to fall asleep. More importantly, when your circadian rhythm and melatonin production gets thrown off, it sets off a domino effect of imbalance in our body which can lead to a number of health issues. So, finding the right balance and timing of light exposure is crucial for not only a good night's rest, but also an in-tuned circadian rhythm.


The Serotonin Connection: Daytime and Sunlight Contributes to Better Sleep

During the day, serotonin, often known as the 'feel-good hormone,' keeps us awake and alert. Interestingly, serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. When sunlight enters our eyes, it stimulates serotonin production, and as night falls, the "master clock" prompts the conversion of serotonin to melatonin, preparing us for restful sleep.

This highlights the significant impact sunlight has on our sleep and overall well-being. Our eyes, as part of our brain, detect natural light and help synchronize our internal rhythms with the solar day. As the day progresses and sunlight wanes, our bodies naturally prepare for sleep.


Beware of Color-Changing Lights: Not Ideal for Restful Sleep

Now, let's talk about those trendy color-changing lights that have become popular in recent years. Most color-changing lights are used to create an entertaining atmosphere in your home or even help to boost your mood, however, they lack the precision needed to mimic the spectral composition and intensity of sunlight throughout the day.

Color changing lights fail to provide the right Melanopic Equivalent Daylight Illuminance (m-EDI), which directly affects melatonin suppression and our sleep regulation. The term "melanopic" refers to melanopsin, a photopigment found in the specialized photosensitive cells in our eyes, known as intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGCs). These cells play a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythms, including sleep-wake cycles.”

Quality, intensity, and timing of light exposure are crucial. To fully support your circadian rhythms and foster optimal sleep, you need lighting that emulates the natural progression of sunlight from morning to evening, promoting a gradual transition to lower intensity, longer-wavelength light at night. Achieving this delicate balance to sleep well in a modern indoor setting is a significant challenge that color changing lights don’t completely solve.


Today’s Light Technology

Fortunately, technology has caught up, and new lighting solutions have emerged that mimic the sun's natural cycle. These wellness lighting options consider the intricacies of our circadian biology, ensuring you get the right light at the right time for a peaceful night's sleep and improved overall wellness.

So, let the power of sunlight guide you to better sleep, improved circadian health, and a revitalized life. With the right lighting, there's no limit to how well you can sleep and perform in your life. Take control of your sleep health and embrace the benefits of natural sunlight in your indoor environment.




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  • Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Rajaratnam, S. M. W., Van Reen, E., ... & Lockley, S. W. (2011). Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96(3), E463-E472.
  • Lambert, G. W., Reid, C., Kaye, D. M., Jennings, G. L., & Esler, M. D. (2002). Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet, 360(9348), 1840-1842.
  • Lewy, A. J., Lefler, B. J., Emens, J. S., & Bauer, V. K. (2006). The circadian basis of winter depression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(19), 7414-7419.
  • Reiter, R. J., Tan, D. X., Kim, S. J., & Cruz, M. H. C. (2014). Delivery of pineal melatonin to the brain and SCN: role of canaliculi, cerebrospinal fluid, tanycytes and Virchow-Robin perivascular spaces. Brain Structure and Function, 219(6), 1873-1887.
  • Rubin, R., Rundell, O. H., Roca, R. P., & Regelson, W. (2012). Hormonal rhythms: the foundation of good health. Hormones, Health, and Happiness, 16, 155-168.

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