Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Most people undervalue the importance of being in sync with our circadian rhythms, and our environment. The reality is, its a crucial part of thriving. Yep bold, and italics, it's that important!
As humans we thrive when our lives match the rise and fall of the sun. Our circadian rhythm is a diurnal one, meaning that ideally we should be active during the light hours, and switch off and unwind for sleep when it’s dark. Humans have evolved to function this way, but modern life causes an immense and destructive disruption to our innate biological rhythms. Specifically the invention of electricity, has enabled us to stay up long past the sunset, and be just as busy in the dark hours.
The Circadian Pacemaker
Your biological clock is located in your hypothalamus in your brain, and it’s called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN.) The SCN is a master clock for your body, and it regulates many other body clocks like you core temperature, blood pressure, cognition, hormones, alertness, hunger, metabolism, sociability, healing processed, sleep etc. The SCN is activated in the morning when sunlight meets the eyeballs, and travels along the optic nerve.
As the SCN activates, our body begins to release hormones and chemicals that wake us up, and get us going. Over the course of the day as the sun sets, our bodies begin to wind down for sleep.
Out of Sync
The more we stray from the light and dark cycle of the sun, the more we suffer a lack of wellness, and slide down the spectrum towards disease. Being out of sync with our bodies biological time, or chrono-time, is devastating to our physical and mental health.
‘If you are out of sync with your inner timing, you’re working against your own biology. When has that ever been a good idea? - Michael Breus, The Power of When
It’s extremely well known, and well proven that shift workers have a higher degree of health issues, and an increased risk for all-cause mortality as a result of being out of sync. Jetlag is another common symptom that occurs as the body attempts to catch up and adjust the biological clock to different time zones, leaving us tired, emotional, and frazzled.
'In the last 15 years, scientists have been connecting the so-called diseases of civilisation (mood disorders, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity) with chrono-misalignment. Symptoms include insomnia and sleep deprivation, which lead to depression, anxiety, and accidents to say nothing of what feeling overwhelmed and exhausted does to relationships, careers and health.’ - Michael Breus, The Power of When
Unless you turn off screens and lights at sunset, you are likely out of sync with your innate circadian rhythms and dealing with chrono-misalignment to some degree. The result is a subtle lack of efficiency and wellness with symptoms like morning fatigue or fogginess, weight gain, inflammation, stress, or just not feeling you are performing at your best.
We are designed to be sun dwelling creatures, and sunlight has many health building properties. It’s no coincidence that sun bathing feels so good! Most people know that sunlight helps synthesis Vitamin D in the skin. But it’s lesser known that the sunlight helps increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, which increases circulation, and lowers blood pressure. Sunlight also helps our cells produce EZ water which is a structured form of water that is energetically charged, and promotes health.
Sunlight is a Key Nutrient
Sun exposure has been given a bad wrap, and we have been taught to cover up, and ‘slip, slop and slap’ to protect our skin from sunburn and skin cancer. While too much sun exposure can cause burns and increase the risk of cancer, healthy sun exposure without sunscreen is heath building.
Many of you might be familiar with SAD or seasonal effective disorder which is a depressive like state known to be caused in winter due to a lack of good quality light.
Sunlight charges our cells. The mitochondria (cellular battery pack) in our cells use and respond to light frequencies. The benefits of sunlight come from UV light, and infrared light and how these light spectrums enhance our mitochondrial function.
Junk lighting comes from artificial lighting, predominantly in doors, or from electrical devices. Junk light makes you feel tired, foggy and hungry! Artificial lighting is missing the infrared and UV beneficial spectrum of light, leaving only the more biologically damaging frequencies of light, like blue light. Conventional LED light bulbs that are ubiquitous in modern buildings have ‘5 x more blue light than you would find in nature’. - Dave Asprey, Headstrong.
This artificial lighting or ‘junk light’ can be just as bad as junk food, given the way it messes with our biological clock, and negatively influences our mitochondria. Blue light breaks down Melatonin the sleep hormone, which disrupts and degrades sleep quality, further dysregulating circadian rhythms. Blue light increases free radical activity, accelerating the aging process and causing damage at a cellular level.
'Blue light after dark spikes cortisol and ghrelin, hampers leptin signalling, increases insulin production, and suppresses melatonin. Habitual screen use after dark makes you tired, fat and vulnerable to oxidative damage and accelerated aging.' - Mark Sisson, Primal Endurance
On a side note if you find you are particularly sensitive to light, then it's worth getting tested for Irlens Syndrome, which is a disorder akin to dyslexia, whereby the brain struggles to process light efficiently. 1 in 2 people have it, and it can make reading, computer work, bright lights or sun glare extraordinarily taxing.
It all Comes Down to Mitochondria
Dr Jack Kruse, Neuroscientist is leading the field with his revolutionary and extreme viewpoint that the whole nutritional science industry needs to be reassessed, to address the importance of light in our food. After all, the food we eat is essentially about ingesting electrons or energy, and traditional nutritional metrics measure micro or macro nutrients, but no one actually measures electrons! If you want to dive down a rabbit hole, I suggest you check out his blog here.
His work highlights the importance of decreasing our bodies positive charge, and increasing the negatively charged electrons in our body with sunlight, cold thermogenesis, earthing (standing barefoot on earth to dump protons and increase electrons) and eating a diet high in electron rich DHA.
'When your mitochondrion are lacking electrons, you can no longer tell proper circadian time in your cells.' - Dr Jack Kruse
He also claims that the more sunlight you get, the less the quality of food is an issue because your mitochondria (your cellular engine) is stronger and more efficient, and that the less sunlight you get, the less carbohydrates you can tolerate. This means that eating seasonally is important for circadian rhythms. Eating summer fruits or produce in winter will throw our biological rhythms out, and promote weight gain.
Enhancing Your Circadian Rhythm
This is a huge topic, but it's one of utmost importance for optimal health. So what can you do, to regulate your rhythm,s and feel your best?
Do your best to follow the rhythm of the sun, wake with sunrise and wind down after sunset.
Get barefoot on the earth to soak up negative electrons which can counter free radicals or positively charged electrons in your body.
Get sunlight into your eyes first thing in the morning to activate your SCN. Over the course of the day the infrared spectrum of light decreases, and it’s highest in the morning between 8-10 which is when you most need to get outside
Block blue light spectrums by covering your skin when exposed to junk light, get screen protectors, turn down the screen brightness, turn lights off, or wear blue light blocking glasses to reduce the damage.
Counter blue light exposure by earthing or eating a high DHA rich seafood diet, or increases infrared or red LED lights in your environment.
Eat a season diet
Get skin exposure to sun as much as possible (without burning!)
Get an infrared light, or even better an infrared sauna
Over the coming years you can expect to hear much more about this important and evolving topic. Try out some of the above strategies for optimum health. A good excuse for a warm, sun filled holiday...