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Light and Your Mental Health


Jan 15, 2020 - 0 comments

The number of people suffering from Mental Health challenges is on the rise. In August 2019, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) released statistics reporting that 1 in 6 South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression and substance-use problems (this excludes figures of schizophrenia, bipolar and the like).

In the United States, almost half of all adults (46.4 %) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. Not only are these insights concerning, but living with mental illness can be debilitating for the sufferer and difficult for those around them.

In our last few blogs, we shared tips on light hygiene protocol. ‘But was has this got to do with mental health’ I hear you say?

Everything.

Light tunnel 2 (1)

Recent research has indicated the link between poor quality sleep and a disrupted circadian rhythm. Light exposure has a significant role to play in relation to our circadian rhythm and our sleep cycles.

The quality of our sleep is intricately linked to our circadian rhythms and in turn, our circadian rhythms are integrally linked to light and dark cycles. So… the wrong type of light at the wrong time of day or night can disrupt this delicate balance and impact our sleep quality.

  • Exposure to artificial blue and green light after dark tells our brains to suppress melatonin production, a hormone that is needed for deeply restorative sleep.
  • Lack of natural light exposure is also impacting our circadian rhythms as we miss out on important light messages to the brain. Sunlight also releases serotonin and dopamine which play the dual role of elevating our mood during the day, and aiding our sleep at night.
Artifical and natural light

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) in children

In 2015, the Centre for Disease Control released statistics¹ indicating that 1 in 10 children between the ages of 5-17 years are diagnosed with ADHD. Whilst ADHD is challenging for both the child, parents, family and teachers, greater weighting of concern should be turned to the frequent prescribing of serious medication such as Ritalin, without understanding the complexity of the diagnosis, causes of the illness, nor the side effects that pharmaceutical drugs could have on a developing body.

Studies² have been released which show the link between disrupted circadian rhythm, poor sleep and ADHD. The literature also shows that ADHD symptoms can intensify as sleep quality degrades, but conversely, ADHD symptoms improve if sleep cycles and circadian rhythms are regulated.

This can be done by managing your light hygiene and by using blue blocking glasses. Studies of children with ADHD revealed statistically relevant results that those who wear blue blocking glasses in the evenings before bed, experienced decrease in anxiety and improved quality of sleep.

Tackling what may seem like an insurmountable challenge or difficult diagnosis to swallow, can be addressed with relatively simple protocols.

Child night screen

Anxiety and Depression

The same applies to those who receive diagnoses of anxiety or depression– of concern is the 37% increase of reported mood disorders in children. Blue light exposure is linked to mood disorders which include disruption of brain plasticity, neurotransmission, hormone secretion and gene expression.

Blue light exposure after dark (something quite common in our homes with TV and screen time- be it for entertainment or whilst doing homework on iPads) has been shown to cause a lack of sleep as it interferes with the cortisol cycle. Cortisol should be highest in the mornings and lowest at night but disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms can reverse this cycle which can then increase your susceptibility to anxiety, stress and/or depression.

Anxiety and depression can be regulated through correct circadian cycles of dopamine and serotonin. Sunlight is a key factor that increases these two neurotransmitters so missing out on morning sunlight (plus being inside an office or home with artificial light) could be increasing your risk of anxiety and depression. Protecting yourself or your children with blue blocking glasses, is another easy way to improve circadian rhythm and quality of sleep. Made To Thrive’s preferred partner for scientifically tested blue blocking glasses, is BLUblox. Made To Thrive clients receive 10% discount on all orders.

Remember to follow these quick and easy light hygiene tips and protocols for light health.

References

  1. CDC, 2015. Percentage of Children Aged 5–17 Years with Diagnosed Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). October 16, 2015 / 64(40);1156.
  2. Cortese, S., 2015. Sleep and ADHD: What We Know and What We Do Not Know. Sleep Medicine, 16(1), pp.5-6.

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