I wanted to write a short blog about how I go about my day with regards to light management as many people have asked me what I do. There are many great hacks in this blog to ensure I always have optimal light hygiene for my health, wellness and sleep. So let's begin!
Rise and Shine
I will always wake up about 10 minutes before sunrise. I am quite lucky as I am not living in a major city so a specific bird chirps about 10 minutes before sunrise every morning which triggers the time to be outside. Typically, if you have perfect light management strategies in place you will automatically rise around sunrise anyway. As soon as I hear my cue I bounce out of bed and head straight outside to watch the sun rise. The front of my house faces the sun rise here in Western Australia so I sit outside my house with just a pair of shorts on and take in the sunrise. If for any reason I have to be up for long periods of time before the sunrise (aka in the winter), I wear my Sleep+ blue blockers until the sun is about to rise and then go outside and watch it. If its cold outside I still go outside as the benefits of being cold and the sunrise are an excellent double whammy for great immune health and wellness to start my day.
The reason I watch the sunrise is to entrain my body clock, thus allowing the circadian mechanism to start firing which will ensure my day remains hormonally balanced and optimal. Cortisol production peaks during the sun rise, and this cortisol awakening response creates the optimal hormonal cascade for the day ahead. Dopamine is also produced during the sunrise which makes me feel uplifted and motivated to tackle my day. Serotonin is also produced at this time, serotonin is required later in the day to mix with tryptophan in the gut to produce melatonin. its vitally important to be up watching the sun rise to get all these hormones and neurotransmitters for optimal circadian health.
Another reason I watch the sunrise is to help build up my melanin levels. Melanin is a natural pigment in the skin which gives the skin its colour. Melanin absorbs light and the pigment is able to dissipate over 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation. Therefore, melanin is a protector against UV radiation and studies have shown those with higher levels of melanin have lower incidences of skin cancer. The more I am outside in the mornings the more melanin I will build safely and the more melanin I have the lower my likelihood for sun burn and skin cell damage later in the day when the UV levels increase. In the mornings there is less UV light present which means I can build more melanin without the risk of burning and causing damage to my skin. You can build melanin when UV is high but it will likely also cause skin damage, so slow and steady is the goal, outside in the morning for at least 30 minutes every day.
If at sunrise it's not sunny and cloudy or raining I will still be outside. The light from the sun will still penetrate the cloud cover and provide some light for our ours and skin to absorb. So, come rain or shine I am outside watching the sunrise!
Time to Train!
I hit the gym about one hour after sunrise. I like to train in the mornings as it allows the entrainment of my skeletal muscle clock in line with my master clock that has just been entrained by the light from the rising sun.
The issue I face at the gym is the artificial light. I purposely chose a gym with a lot of natural light which means most of the artificial light present is offset by the natural light. However, I leave nothing for granted and always ensure I sport my yellow SummerGlo blue light glasses when training. I wear this colour as they provide maximum protection from the blue light from the fluorescent gym lights. I also ensure I cover as much of my skin as possible, so wear gym trackies and a hooded jumper. It can get hot sometimes but as long as I am protecting my skin and eyes from dangerous gym lighting and keep hydrated I am winning. Kris Gethin utilises a similar protocol when training himself and always wears BLUblox when in the gym to protect his eyes and circadian rhythms.
The reason I want to filter down blue light from the gym lights at this time of the day is I do not want mixed messages going to by brain about what time of day it is. I also do not want to damage the mitochondria in my eyes which will be a precursor to disease in later life and affect my eye sight. Train smartly!
Following my training I will sometimes utilise an Infrared sauna. I ensured my gym had one as when I have had a hard training session the IR light from these saunas helps speed up the muscle healing process and aids my recovery to train again just as hard the next day.
Once back from the gym and following my cold shower I want to clear my mind so I am focussed for the day. I have 10-20 minutes of either mindfulness of manifestation practice. I typically focus better without light present during these sessions. I wear my REMedy sleep mask whilst doing these practices for complete focus. This will then be followed by a large breakfast, eaten outside under natural light. I eat outside as natural light in the mornings helps with the secretion of digestive enzymes, peptides and hormones (leptin and ghrelin). Conversely eating under artificial blue light seems to increase insulin resistance and could contribute to fat gain.
I typically like to work outside as the blue light emitted from my MacBook screen is then counterbalanced by sunlight. The issue with digital devices or LED office and house lighting is the emit very high amounts of blue light and very little red light. Blue light from artificial and natural sources (the sun), causes cell damage in the eyes. Red light from artificial and natural sources (the sun) causes cell repair and rejuvenation. Therefore, its important that I counter the imbalance of blue with more red light. The best way to do this is with the sun as the spectrum from the sun is perfectly balanced in line with what we require. There is never any substitute for sunlight.
On the rare occasion I cannot be outside to work I have f.lux active on my MacBook and wear BluLite computer glasses. This is a good hack for anyone working in an office environment.
The Bedtime Signal
My day is now drawing to a close and sunset is nearing so I head to the beach to watch the sunset. I am fortunate enough to live close to the beach so I watch the sunset there most days. I choose the beach as I can take off my shoes and socks and paddle in the water grounded myself to the earth for better healing and energy. I watch the sunrise as at this time blue light is at its highest. It is this rapid spike in blue and then the subsequent lowering to blue light to nothing that stimulates the pineal gland to ready itself for production of melatonin later in the evening/night. The red light emitted Ost sunset is restorative and calming and helps to lower cortisol production which needs to be low after sunset to enable the production of melatonin. The sunset is super important for the end phase of your circadian day and the light at this time allows me to transition into restore and repair phase.
Time to Unwind
I head back from the beach, Sleep+ blue blockers on and once home I switch on my house lights. My house lights all contain red light bulbs. I do not have regular light bulbs as they emit blue and green light which is not want I need post sunset. If I expose my eyes and skin to this kind of light after dark it will reduce melatonin production and make my sick in the long run. Therefore, I have installed red light in all my lights.
I like to read in the evenings and meditate. This allows me to relax and prepare for a good night's sleep.
Off to Bedfordshire
I head to bed early, about 21:00 (9pm) as I am typically awake around 5:30-6:00am. To optimise my sleep, I unsure I have my eyes completely blacked out from any light hitting them. I want to protect myself from light from car headlights, street lamps and my annoying neighbours' lights so I wear my REMedy sleep mask. Wearing black out sleep masks has been shown in one study to increase REM sleep. This is a great hack as REM sleep is super restorative and needed for healthy cells and immune system.
I am a creature of habit and typically follow this exact structure 99% of the time. I want to ensure my light environment is optimal so my health, wellness, hormones and sleep can be as well.