by Jesse Hicks Men's Health
Meet your new worst enemy. Looks harmless, right?
Is your office looking brighter lately? If so, that extra light could be stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep.
According to a new study in the Journal of Environmental Management, LED (light-emitting diode) white light suppresses your body’s production of melatonin five times more than regular orange-yellow light from incandescent light bulbs.
Why’s that important to you? Because melatonin regulates your biological clock, sending you to sleep at the proper time. And the less of it your body produces, the longer you stay awake at night. Now would be a good time to check if your desk lamp is powered by an LED light bulb.
“If we’re exposed to short-wave illumination in the late afternoon and early natural dark period of the 24-hour cycle, it will interfere with our melatonin production and secretion,” says Abraham Haim, Ph.D., head of the Center for Interdisciplinary Chronobiological Research at the University of Haifa in Israel. Under natural conditions, he explains, less of the pesky short-wave light reaches us in the late afternoon and evening. But artificial lighting changes that natural process, interfering with melatonin production.
Haim says more research needs to be done before we can understand the long-term effects of such interference. But he suggests that late-shift workers especially would be affected, because they’re already exposing themselves to light at night, which disrupts the body’s natural rhythms.
In fact, in 2007, the World Health Organization reported that working the graveyard shift is a probable cancer-causing agent. That’s because prolonged exposure to artificial light at night decreases melatonin, increasing the chance of developing tumors.
Your solution is simple, says Haim. “Humans are diurnal creatures. During the day they should be exposed to natural illumination.” Translation: Get outside! Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D and naturally suppresses melatonin, storing it for the nighttime.
Try this: Head outdoors for an afternoon run. The sun’s rays will provide a boost to your circadian clock and give you the perk you need to finish the day strong. British researchers recently found that when people exercised during their workday—regardless of the duration or intensity of the movement—they were less likely to feel fatigued, and that translated into a 15 percent improvement in job performance.