Sunlight plays a central role in resetting your circadian rhythm each day. When sunlight hits your eyes, it sends a message to your suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus of your brain to reset the internal clocks. Keeping all of these clocks on the same time is crucial for keeping your body working efficiently.
The Why: These internal clocks govern hormone release, hunger,thirst, fatigue, body temperature, bacteria balance in your gut, and sleep cycles. When you get morning sunlight you are signalling your body to halt melatonin production and raise your cortisol. This is good. It is natural for cortisol levels to rise in the morning. This is what wakes you up and energizes you in the morning.
Another benefit of getting sunlight on your body and in your eyes in the morning is that it is associated with the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is known as the “happiness hormone” and it also is the precursor to melatonin. The pineal gland synthesizes melatonin from serotonin. This is useful then come night time because you will have more melatonin being released causing you to feel sleepier and also getting all the extra benefits of melatonin. Melatonin is considered one of the body’s strongest antioxidants and anticancer hormone.
Unfortunately, in today’s world people are only spend 10% of their time outside. They spend a disproportionate time indoors under artificial light. The problem with this is that indoor lighting is far dimmer than outside light. Even though you can see fine indoors and it looks bright, it is not even close to being outside even on a cloudy day. What is happening is your eyes are adjusting to the weak light indoors by letting more light in just like when you turn off the lights at night. The eyes and skin need bright light of the magnitude of 10,000 lux or more. Indoor lighting falls in the range of 50-200 lux. That is a huge difference.
It is also beneficial to get out in the afternoon to expose your skin to the sun to get some important UVB rays. When UVB rays hit your skin, your body is able to convert it into vitamin D. Having low vitamin D levels are associated with poor sleep quality. You are correct that their are vitamin D pills, but they are not the same nor what nature intended. Not everything should be solved with a pill.
For those of you who live further north it can be a little tricky satisfying some of these requirements. Here is where using technology can have an impact. It definitely is not on the same level as the sun, but can be a great supplement.
How to mimic sunlight
To mimic sunrise and bright light look into a light for seasonal disorder daylight lamps. These lamps have been specifically designed to produce 10,000 lux of light. When looking for one you want one that has a large surface area so it hits more of your body. Second, look for one that is adjustable for height and angle as you do not want to be starting directly at the light. This can cause eyestrain and isn’t that enjoyable. The one I recommend is the one made by Alaskan Northern Lights. They have 3 models that would serve the purpose you are looking for. The Aurora LightPad Max, the Aurora Lightpad Mini, and the Northstar 10,000, What makes these lights great is that they are tested for what distance you can be away from them and still achieve the 10,000 lux level. Most of the cheap mood lights you find on Amazon only hit 10,000 lux if your face is right up next to the light literally. Who wants to do that? It is much easier to get your light if it is convenient and you can eat breakfast or read while getting your treatment.
Try This: Within 1 hour of rising get outside and get some light into your eyes and on your skin if the temperature allows it. Do not wear sunglasses or sunscreen during this time. They filter the light getting to your eyes and prevent vitamin D production. Morning sun is lowest in the UV rays. Even if it is cloudy outside you will still get the benefits of being outside. It is much brighter outside compared to inside. Try to get 20-30 minutes. If you can only get 5 minutes, then still do it. It is better than zero. As a bonus couple this with exercise. You could do stretching, walking, running, or calisthenics.
If you are up and out of the house before the sun rises or live in the northern latitudes you have a few alternative options to try.
1). Purchase a daylight lamp. These are usually marketed as seasonal disorder lamps. Have this on while you are eating breakfast or getting ready in the bathroom. You want to purchase one that is 10,000 lux in brightness. Alaskan Northern Lights is the brand I recommend. Apply the same 20-30 minutes that you would if you were going outside.
2). There are alarm clocks that use light to wake you up. The bright light from these help to set in motion your body to start waking up. They can be very useful for people that hate the jarring sound of traditional alarm clocks or have a hard time waking up in the morning. Casper Glow is an example. Casper Glow
3). Take a 15 minute break at work and get outside for a walk or just soak up the sun in the afternoon.
4). Eat your lunch outside.
5). When you get home from work, get outside. Eat outside or take a walk after dinner.
The earlier in the day you can get the sun, the more of an effect the sun will have on your melatonin production. Start your day off with a jolt of happiness.
As a side note, the sun and lamps can provide a great energy boost in the afternoon when you normally reach for coffee or some other quick energy pick me up.