Getting a daily dose of sunlight can improve a person’s mood and sleep quality, a new study has found.
A research team led by Monash University PhD student Angus Burns and Associate Professor Sean Cain conducted a study published in the upcoming December issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders.
The study examined 400 000 participants in the UK Biobank programme, and found that a lack of daytime light exposure was a risk factor for depressive symptoms, poor mood, and insomnia.
Burns said that most light and health-related messaging focusses on avoiding light at night, as it disrupts the circadian rhythm, but this study highlights the importance of getting enough daylight to ensure our bodies function optimally.
“In this study, we observed that the greater time spent in outdoor light during the day was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, lower odds of using antidepressant medication, better sleep and fewer symptoms of insomnia,” Burns said.
“These results may be explained by the impacts of light on the circadian system and the direct effects of light on mood centres in the brain.”
Associate Professor Cain said a few small changes to a person’s daily routine could help improve their mood, sleep, and energy levels.
“People now spend most waking hours in intermediate, artificial lighting conditions, due to reduced sunlight exposure and relatively bright night-time light exposure,” he said.
“In this study, we observed that greater time spent in outdoor light was associated with better mood outcomes, better quality sleep, and ease of wakening.
“Insufficient exposure to daytime light could be a key factor contributing to poor mood and sleep outcomes in depressive disorders. My general advice for everyone is simple: when the sun is out, get as much light as you can, but after it sets, keep it dark. Your body will thank you.”
Source: Monash University