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Why morning light is so crucial to your health — it's more powerful than you might realise

'Every aspect of how we function is controlled by light,' an associate professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said
UPDATED MAR 29, 2023
(Representational image, Pexels/ Ricky Esquivel)
(Representational image, Pexels/ Ricky Esquivel)

LONDON, UK: “Health is wealth” – this is not just a saying but a mantra to live long and healthy. Two experts spoke with BBC and shared why it was important to soak up the morning light as much as possible and how it is excellent for health.

Steve Jones, Senior Research Fellow, Human Genetics, University College London, said, “Sunlight is powerful stuff, perhaps more powerful than most people realize. The perils of living without sunlight are really quite real. In some ways, modern life has driven us back to the Stone Age, when we lived in caves.”


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‘Many people don't realize what an artificial life we live’

Jones elaborated, “In the 60s there were several experiments by French people who went into caves and stayed there. They all began to sleep either for extraordinarily long periods of time or extraordinarily short periods of time, and they couldn't tell the difference. They all said they had severe mood disturbances and depression, so much so that some of them had to leave long before they really had planned to.”

“In winter, we often feel somewhat out of sorts at this time of the year. A lack of sunlight means that your immune system doesn't work as well, and your defense mechanisms don't work as well. Many people don't realize what an artificial life we live. That's because artificial life depends on artificial light,” Jones noted.

The professor also cited the WHO and claimed that shift work was a “threat to health." He added, “Many British people spend less than half an hour a day in the open air. So it's no good staying inside and looking at the Sun and saying this is doing me good because it isn't. You can get vitamin D in several ways. But overwhelmingly the best way is through the sun. Don't retreat into your cave. In other words, when the Sun comes out, go out and have a good time, that's the medical advice.”

Jones spoke to Radio New Zealand and said, "There were cases where people kind of crept out in the early morning because they needed light... you need light to time your life and if you don't have that it has really severe effects."

‘Every aspect of how we function is controlled by light’

Agreeing with Jones, Aarti Jagannath, an associate professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, told BBC, “Every aspect of how we function is controlled by light. In winter we are seeing a lot less sunlight. An effect on mood, increased depression, more metabolic disorders, and all of these things are offshoots of a disrupted circadian clock.”

She said, “It times all of our physiology and all of our behavior. All of the active sorts of processes are compartmentalized to the day, and all of the restorative processes are kept to the night. The wavelengths that have the most powerful impact are the bluish-colored ones. Within our eyes there are these cells that have a pigment that's sensitive to this blue light, that then signals to the body clock to tell it what time of day it is.”

‘The bright light had a much greater effect on elevating mood’

Jagannath pointed out the downside of taking in artificial light as it gives our body “a time cue that is incorrect. Then you might end up feeling far more alert at night, or a lot more depressed during the day,” which leads to “a higher incidence of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease.”

The professor also mentioned a study conducted at the Broadmoor institute, which found “the bright light had a much greater effect on elevating mood than even some anti-depressants.” Jagannath said, “Simply being outside and exposing yourself to light, so that you strengthen your circadian clock is going to have a hugely beneficial impact on health and wellbeing.”