A lot goes into getting enough high-quality sleep, and according to a recent study that includes how much natural light you get per day. At The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona, we are proud to serve as the Face of Sleep Medicine in this region—where you likely don’t have to work very hard to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. However, with more and more people working sedentary jobs, often indoors, and sometimes away from windows, it can be challenging to take advantage of our year-round sunshine and get enough outdoor breaks. No matter where you live, science shows that a certain amount of natural light every day is a must for sleep health.

This study took place at Monash University and found that “enough” natural light directly affects both mood and sleep quality. The full study can be found in the December 2021 issue of Journal of Affective Disorders. It was a longitudinal, cross-sectional study comprised of over 400,000 participants in the United Kingdom’s Biodank system. Researchers found that insomnia (as well as “poor mood” and depressive symptoms) were more commonly found in those who did not get adequate natural light.

Lighting Up Data on Insomnia

The team noted that most data and information on how light affects sleep focuses on the need to avoid light at night (including blue light from technology). This light certainly interrupts our body’s clocks, but not as much attention has been paid to the need for light during the daytime. Researchers found that “greater time spent in outdoor lighting during the day was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, lower odds of using antidepressant medication, better sleep, and fewer symptoms of insomnia.” They address how light influences our circadian rhythm and how light impacts the brain’s mood centers.

Adjusting Your Sleep Quality

If you are struggling with any sleep disorder, including insomnia, it’s important to work with a sleep specialist. Many times, insomnia can be best treated with cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which is why we have a cognitive behavior psychologist on site. CBT-I can include getting more time outdoors in the sunshine (which is much easier to do here in Arizona compared to the study participants in England). However, you can also start getting more rays right away. As long as you wear sunscreen, only good things can come from outside, sunny breaks.

Unfortunately, many people today spend the bulk of their waking hours indoors under artificial lighting. That is simply the work structure today. This is coupled with an increase of light at night from technology, such as phones, laptops, or tablets. If you simply can’t get outdoors due to your work or other obligations, an alternative might be a sun lamp (which is often used to help with depressive symptoms and seasonal affective disorder). Getting enough outdoor light and using a sun lamp are both strategies that you can start immediately, but bear in mind that this does not replace working with a sleep specialist if you suspect you have insomnia.

The Help You Need for Great Sleep

Dr. Ruchir P. Patel is a triple board-certified sleep specialist, named “Top Doc” in the area for the last six years. At our clinic, no referral is needed and you will get unparalleled access to sleep experts starting at your initial consultation. We work with patients as young as two years old because we know that quality sleep is critical for all ages. There are many sleep disorders, and insomnia is one of the most common. Fortunately, insomnia is manageable and treatable—but does require a proper diagnosis first. If you’re ready to treat your insomnia, contact The Insomnia and Sleep Institute by calling the office or filling out the online form.