It’s 2 weeks into a new year and I’m watching the sun return. It comes back quite quickly. These photos were taken 2 days apart at the same time of day. Just before Christmas at this time of day where I live, there was complete darkness.
Winter can bring challenges for some people, when they find short days and long nights hard to cope with, and spend all their time indoors in artificial light. Getting up when it is still dark, going to work or school while it is dark, and then coming home when it is dark again can have a dramatic effect on mental health, not to mention vitamin D levels, the immune system and bone health.
Light is important for health. Light plays a central role in regulating circadian rhythms, affecting the release of hormones which tell the body when to be awake and when to sleep.
Light enters through the eye where receptors signal the brain to produce hormones which regulate our circadian rhythms. Indoor light does not provide the light signals our bodies need for healthy circadian rhythms while artificial light in the evening provides too much light and can disrupt the sleep-wake pattern. This can have an impact on metabolism, weight gain, and contribute to health problems. Circadian rhythms are important in mood and mental health. Reduced light in winter months can contribute to depression particularly SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I suggest to my patients that they go outside as early as possible and have daylight on their faces.
I recommend my patients find some time during the day to get outside every day even if it is raining or overcast. Why not try taking a 20 minute walk during your lunch break? Even getting outside for 5 minutes can be beneficial. If possible, sit by a window so you are exposed to daylight, or eat your lunch by a window if you work in an environment with no windows.