Daily wisdom: go outside at 8 A.M.

Morning sun can get you on a better slumber schedule.

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Seeking sunshine first thing in the morning can help you feel calmer, happier, and sleep better at night, according to a new study in Sleep Health. Researchers looked at 109 people who worked normal office hours over one week. They found that those who were exposed to more daylight or electric blue light between 8 a.m. and noon fell asleep quicker and slept more soundly at night compared to those who obtained little light in the morning. And while pre-noon rays provided the biggest perks, people who were around a lot of light (including electric sources) during the workday also noted better sleep and an improved mood.


"Normally, our circadian rhythm runs on a period of 24.2 hours and light (either sunlight or artificial short-wave blue light) is the main stimulus to help keep us synced to this cycle," says lead study author Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., light and health program director at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Morning light helps activate this system as soon as you’re awake, which means you’ll be ready to go to sleep earlier. This can make a real difference: The study found those who didn't see much sun spent roughly 45 minutes lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Similarly, taking in small doses of light throughout the day reminds your body of where it is in the circadian cycle. This can be especially helpful when you feel unnaturally sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. “Light during the day is like a cup of coffee,” Figueiro adds.

Conversely, a ton of light late in the evening will delay your clock and keep you from feeling tired, she adds. That’s why using tablets and smartphones (which emit blue light) right before bed disrupts your sleep.


“Seek light during the day from any source, electric (with a blue light lamp) or daylight, especially in the morning,” Figueiro advises. Researchers haven’t quite pinpointed ideal timing, but Figueiro recommends heading outside for at least 30 minutes first thing in the morning (or a bit longer if you’re sitting with a blue light inside). Then, seek light at regular intervals throughout the day, but start minimizing exposure around 7 p.m.