On March 11th we turned the clock forward. Yes, we made it to Daylight Savings. We may have lost an hour of sleep but for many Americans, it’s seen as the first big step into spring and extended sunlight.
As we all know, there are two types of people; those that can’t get enough of the winter months and those that can’t wait for it to be over. Yes, there is snowshoeing, skiing, sledding but the frigid temperatures and lack of sunlight tend to take a toll on us. This is because our body’s internal biological clock, referred to as a circadian rhythm, tends to work in connection with the rising and setting of the sun. This clock helps control bodily functions that work on a fixed schedule such as sleeping at night and waking in the morning as well as the secretion of hormones like melatonin and serotonin throughout the day. So when this clock is offset by the changes in daylight it can cause chemical and hormonal imbalances that hinder our morale, energy, cognitive performance, sleep schedule, general well-being and more.
Fortunately, light therapy came to be. Light therapy is a non-medicinal treatment known for its effectiveness in countering the effects of fewer daylight hours in winter. Light therapy can also be used to treat insomnia; counter effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, jetlag, and some studies even show that light therapy can help improve motor function in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It is a simple and effective treatment for those that can feel a little out-of-whack. Light therapy is simply exposing one’s eyes to a bright light with of more than 2,000 lux daily, this light helps replace the lack of natural sunlight during the day.
But wait…What is lux? Lux is used to measure the amount of light output in a given area. One lux is equal to one lumen per square meter. It enables us to measure the total "amount" of visible light present and the intensity of the illumination on a surface. To put this concept into perspective, the light of a well-lit office is about 300 to 500 lux where a sunny day can be over 100,000 lux.
The clinically recognized standard for light exposure is 10,000 lux, at eye level for 30 minutes every day, ideally in the morning. It is recommended to begin treatment in the fall when daylight hours decrease and to continue until spring. In addition to a light therapy lamp, there are also other things that you can do to kick winter blues to the curb. This includes getting regular to moderate exercise for around 30 minutes per day, spending 15-30 minutes in the direct sunlight, and making sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
It may not always be easy to get out and do these things but thinking back two hundred years ago, 75 percent of the population worked outdoors and today, less than 10 percent work in natural light. So if you have a career that doesn’t allow outdoor time, try walking to work, eating outside on a lunch break, or purchasing a light therapy lamp with at least 10,000 lux and feel your troubles melt away!
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