Science in Action: Sunlight and Sleep (update)

Today I had lunch with a friend and said, “I’d like to sit outside.” I answered my phone indoors and went outside. I answered my email sitting outside.

I’m now convinced that more outdoor light exposure makes me sleep better — better in the sense that I wake up feeling like I have slept more deeply. Whatever sleep does, it has done more of it. I’m convinced because I have gotten this well-slept feeling after six or seven days during which I spent several hours more than usual outdoor and did not get this feeling after two days when I spent an average or less-than-average amount of time outdoors.

I have slept this well before, but only after standing for 9 or 10 hours, which wasn’t easy. (Nowadays I stand about 6 hours/day.) Whereas spending more time outside is easy. I’ve ordered a sunshade for my laptop.

I am going to start to measure my sleep quality with a rating and keep track of how long I spend outdoors.

9 Replies to “Science in Action: Sunlight and Sleep (update)”

  1. The two questions that arise for me are:
    (1) As I posted before, controlling for fresh air effects. The best sleep I remember getting is when I slept in the corner of a room where there were 2 windows within 4 feet of my head on either side. I kept them open and woke up in a near euphoric state. So sleep is definitely better in fresh as compared with stuffy air. Might there be an effect that carries over from getting more fresh air during the day?

    (2) Is there a time of day effect? Do you get better sleep if you are outside earlier in the day? Does this increase wave amplitude, so that you are more “awake” when you are awake and more asleep when you are asleep? When I changed my circadian rhythms so that I went to sleep around midnight instead of 3:30 a.m., (following Seth’s advice) I did it through getting a lot of sunlight early in the day and avoiding it later in the day. I noticed that later in the day when it was time to sleep, my body felt gripped by a very relaxed animal pleasure. I would really enjoy bedtime, something I did not experience when I went to bed at 3:30 a.m. All of this had a powerful effect on my mood generally.

    If your findings on increased sunlight and flax seed oil are even half true, they are mind-blowing. I’m going to experiment with both…

  2. Thanks, Tim. Re clean air: Someone else told me something similar: she slept better with the windows open. I tried it and indeed seemed to sleep somewhat better. But the effect wasn’t large and not so clear after a while. So I stopped. Whereas the effect I see now shows no signs of going away and is so large there can be no doubt. But your comment shows a simple way to test the clean air explanation: open the windows in my bedroom. Maybe I will try again. I am inclined to discount this possibility because of the thousands of studies showing an effect of light on circadian rhythms.

    This gets to your “amplitude” idea. That is how I thought sunlight affected my sleep. In my recent observations, however, the additional sunlight happens late in the day (say, 4 pm) so I am surprised that it would affect amplitude of an oscillator. As you say if it is an oscillator effect time of day should make a difference — earlier in the day should be better. Whereas if it is a sleeping-pill-like effect later in the day should be better.

  3. i think the best way to have a good sleep is that you are so busy and get tired . so when you have time and bed and of course fresh air , you can have a quite good sleep.

    in china, there is a traditional medicine , i remember some part of it , it says : cook the red beans and together with the special rice for a long time , and each day you insist on eating it , this will help a lot for your sleep.


  4. Hi – I know this is late in coming, but thought I’d add something not discussed. I’m new to your site having googled for ‘raising HDL blog’ btw —

    I have a malabsorption disease, celiac sprue, due to eating glutenous grains – which our society is full of and so was I. I have to work harder than most people to get where I am (thinking of Kathy Griffin on that one), and in doing so tried extra hard to get my fiber cause of *eh hem* constipation (per doctors instructions for low-fat, high fiber diet). Twenty years later Kashi breakfasts helped me into full blown celiac. Sooo, when you’re celiac you’re low on nutrients because of malabsorption. My symptoms included, but are not limited to, INSOMNIA, fibromyalgia, fatigue, depression, restless leg syndrome, worsening eyesight, eczema, dry skin, headaches, hypothyroidism (I thought so many symptoms were because of hypothyroidism, but they got better on a gluten-free diet and not on thyroid meds), hair loss (iron & other deficiencies), ADD (starving brain – no fat or nutrients). As a child my symptoms were aching muscles (“growing pain” likely iron deficiency), cavities, lowered immune system and tendency to have annual bouts of bronchitis and laryngitis.

    Well, I’m 47 now and the gf diet is high glycemic – I’m obese and looking to raise my HDL. So far I’ve lowered my LDL, but not raised much my HDL (cod liver oil and just starting low-carb, Nourishing Traditions-type diet). Okay, now my point:

    My first year of remission, as-it-were, was spent lolling in the pool and taking Rx for Vitamin D(2 – which I know now wasn’t necessary, I could have taken D3 oil capsules, but hey, it worked, and I have insurance — referring to Dr. Davis’ blogs, of which I’m an avid reader/believer). My vitamin D level prior to the pills was 21, after that it was 60. You want to be over 50 (for heart health too). And here’s the kicker I didn’t expect: I slept better.

    More story: I got tired of timing my thyroid pills with calcium/vit D/iron supplements and stopped taking them. Without realizing the connection, I was awakening earlier in the day. ALSO – I’d not been in the pool the next summer because of weather (OK – if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute!) … my vitamin D by the time I got it tested again, was down to 15-yikes! Alert Alert! And I felt it. I really like Dr. Holick and his stance on Vitamin D. Google for more info. Thanks for YOUR info – I’m sending it to my prediabetic insomniac melanoma-recovering never in the sunshine mother. She needs to be off gluten too – but she’s kinda stuck feeling crappy and can’t seem to muster the energy. It’s sad. And I’m gonna look into your book now …

  5. Thanks for the link – I’ll check it out.

    Oh, and constipation was resolved about month 4-6 on gf diet. Everything is swimmingly fine because villous atrophy resolved, I surmise. I really believe that there is a high fiber hoax going on … I seem to do better with less grain fiber, and more vegetables/fruit fibers … actually less fruit nowadays as I’m working on getting rid of insulin resistance. It’s always something with me! lol (high maintenance babe). Thank goodness for the internet – saved my life! Thanks again.

  6. Well written post. Over time I recovered from depression but it took medication, counseling and also a lot of personal development. Are there any good forums you would recommend?

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