Sleep Tips

Should You get Sun Exposure in the Morning?

✔️ Takeaway: humans live and thrive by sunlight. It’s essential to get enough sun/light exposure during the day to signal your brain to be awake and focused. If you don’t get enough light, it can bring your circadian rhythm out of whack. It’ll be more difficult to stay awake during the day… and more difficult to sleep during the night.
Time to read: 6 minutes 23 seconds.

Ask any Dutch person on a sunny day how it’s going and he’ll say:

Well, sun’s shining. Everything’s great!

I never paid attention to it, but a quick look on a sunny day in Amsterdam shows you that everyone is walking on the sunny sidewalk. And avoiding the shade as much as possible.

Turns out it’s actually a great thing to do for your health.

Today we’re going to discuss how sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm.

And 5 ways to get more light exposure in the morning.

Ready? Let’s go.

How does sunlight regulate your circadian rhythm?

Light is an important factor to regulate your circadian rhythm. 

Why? Because all in history our days were regulated by the sun.

If it was dark outside, it was basically impossible to get anything done.

Try hunting when you can’t see the animal.

So over hundreds of thousands of years our species got a rhythm that worked WITH the sun.

In short. We are wired to be active when the sun is up.

And we should chill and sleep when it’s night.

What is wrong in modern society?

Well, we don’t get as much natural light as we did even a hundred years ago.

Many of us are living in boxes. Then taking our box on wheels to go to our work box.

So we don’t really get outside.

Add to that the fact that TOO MUCH sun can cause skin cancer. And we’re a nation of people avoiding the sun even more.

Too much sun is bad. But recent studies are showing that avoiding the sun is a hell of a lot worse.

If you don’t signal your brain that it’s time to wake up, your circadian rhythm can get out of whack.

Activity is supposed to peak during the day. So that you can chill at night.

It’s like an up and down line.

So if you don’t cause that upward peak… your downward peak will also be less intense.

Which then causes stuff like insomnia, worrying at night… or being overactive at night.

All stuff that millions of people are struggling with.

And what about lightbulbs?

When you turn on the light in the morning, you might feel as if it’s incredibly light. Your eyes are still sensitive, so you experience the light as very bright.

So doesn’t this count as a signal to your brain to wake up?

Well, yes. It does.

However, studies have shown that to give a strong wake up signal, the light needs to be at least 1000 lux.

For reference. Walking outside on midday on a bright day, the lux can be high up tens of thousands.

Or even on a cloudy day, you still get a couple thousand lux.

So, lamps are not a substitute. In most cases. We’ll talk about that later 😉

So should you get sunlight in the morning?

The burning question.

Should you get sunlight in the morning? 

The answer is an absolute yes.

By getting sunlight in the morning… you:

  • Signal your brain that it’s time to wake up naturally
  • Set yourself up for good sleep at night
  • Have more natural energy and focus throughout the day

getting sunlight throughout the day is important. But in the morning it’s even more important.

As you’re setting up a good foundation for the whole day.
Added to that, you are also more receptive to the stimulating effects of sunlight in the morning.

But it can be difficult to get enough light in the mornings…

Some common obstacles are:

  • Waking up too late
  • Sun coming up too late in winter (after you’re already at work)
  • Working inside
  • Working from home
  • Taking the metro to work

Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure you get at least 20 minutes.

5 Simple ways to get 20 minutes of light in the morning

It’s best to see if you can get your sun/light exposure before 9AM. However, if that’s impossible for your schedule, then don’t sweat the details. If you can only get it from 9.30 to 10 AM, then that’s a lot better than no sun at all.

Also, some people say it’s best to shoot for at least 20 minutes. The more the better. However, I understand that’s also not possible for everyone. So I personally aim for anything is better than none.

Even if I can only chill for 5 minutes outside on a busy day, I like to take the opportunity. 

Let’s go to the 3 simplest ways to get at least 20 minutes of light exposure in the morning before 9AM:

#1 Take a walk

Walks are great. They get your blood pumping, give your body some exercise and you can slowly prepare for the day. You get to think about what you want to do, and how you’re going to tackle today’s challenges ahead.

What is also does is get you sunlight. You take walks outside. So you get light.

If you’ve got the time, this is the best way to get active and light in the morning.

Walks have tons more benefits for your optimizing your day/night cycle, but we’ll cover them in other articles.

How to: if you have the time, take a 20 minute walk in the morning before work. You’ll feel energized and ready to take on the day. Plus you’ll sleep better at night.

#2 Maybe you already get it during your commute?

This is one thing many don’t consider: light through the window actually count for light exposure. So if you go to work by car, chances are big that you already get your 20 minutes of light exposure.

That is, if you drive when it’s light. Also, if you travel by train, you need to sit next to the window. Otherwise you won’t get your 1000 lux.

A downside is that traveling by metro doesn’t count. As there’s only artificial light underneath the ground.

How to: if you travel by car or bike to work, then you most likely already get enough light in the morning. Be happy that you don’t need to change your routine 😉

#3 Have a coffee outside

This option is great if you need to be at work in the morning before the sun goes up. You can simply take a break around 9 and drink a nice cup of coffee outside. Or any beverage really. Doesn’t need to be coffee.

That will get you your light exposure and wake you up. 

It’s also a great option if you’re on holiday or just chilling on the weekend. You might not be in the mood for a walk. In that case just chill outside and have a nice warm drink.

How to: if it’s impossible for you to get light in the morning because of work, it’s a good idea to take a break and spend it outside around 8 or 9 AM.

#4 Put your desk next to the window

We just discussed that light through a window counts. So you can just place your desk next to your window.

Studies showed that office workers who worked next to a window got one average 47 minutes more sleep at night than workers who worked not next to a window.

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That’s huge.

If you have the chance to do this at your work, you’d be stupid not to do it.

How to: sit next to a window while you work. Once a while, just look outside for a minute or so, to expose yourself to light. 

#5 get a STRONG light source

If none of the above work for your situation, you can try this.

See if you can find a very strong light source. There are lamps created by Philips I think that you can place in your bedroom to mimic the sun’s light.

They’re not as strong as it would be on a good warm sunny day, but they can come close.

Most of them get higher than 1000 lux.

Also, if you don’t want to buy a special light box for this, you can experiment with stronger LED lamps.

I’ve got one at home and it actually gets above a 1000 lux if I’m pretty close to it. 

It’s so bright that I can’t look at it directly. But I like to sit next to it if I need to wake up early, or if it’s a cloudy rainy day.

How to: if you cannot get natural light in the morning, then see if you can get a lightbox or very strong LED light that offers enough lux.

And please don’t be too cool…

You know those people that just seem to be wearing their sunglasses everywhere they go.

With the least amount of sunshine getting through, they put on their glasses. Or even worse: when there’s no sun at all.

Now you’ve got a great valid excuse to laugh at them.

Not only are they making a fool of themselves by acting too cool for everyone… they’re also depriving themselves of natural light. 

After all, your eyes contain the most receptors that signal your brain that it’s light outside.

And if you’ve made this mistake in the past? Don’t worry. Just use sunglasses what they’re meant for from now on. Only wear them on when you’re driving against low sun, or when it’s really incredibly bright outside that you can’t see a thing without them.

Wearing them in most other situations is unnecessary and often even pretty dumb from a circadian perspective.

Sleep Tips

How Necessary is it Really to Sleep in a Complete Dark Room Without Any Lights at all?

✔️ Takeaway: making your room pitch black is one of the easiest ways to get more deep sleep and wake up better rested. It literally takes less than an hour to implement it, and the rewards you reap are out of proportionally good.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 23 seconds.

Everytime I visit my parents, I sleep like a baby bear. I go to bed at 11PM and at 9AM in the morning I feel as if I’ve awoken from a long winter hibernation.

Why do I sleep so well there?

I asked myself the same question regularly when I wasn’t that interested in sleeping well.

Looking back, it’s incredibly obvious.

My parents live in the countryside, and there’s literally no light in my bedroom there.

Chances are you’ve heard about removing lights in your bedroom, but how important is it, really?

Let’s find out.

A picture I just made of my bedroom at 11.50 AM. Curtains closed.

So is it really important that your room should be pitch black?

If you’re anything like me, you know you should be sleeping in a black room.

I’ve known for years that making your room black is the way to go for deeper sleep.

But the problem is that we don’t know HOW necessary it is.

It’s the main problem with looking for solutions on the internet.

You look up how to sleep better.

You get thrown a 100 tips at your plate. Now enjoy figuring out what you should focus on.

Improving your sleep is not rocket science. There are a couple of things that are incredibly important.

Plus there are some things that cost you an hour or less to set up… and bring you benefits for years to come.

Making your room PITCH BLACK is one of those things.

Let’s dig into history to find out how exactly this stuff works…

Let’s go back a couple thousand years

If we go back a couple thousand years, people lived with the sun. In the morning you would wake up when the sun came up. And at night, you’d stop what you were doing when the sun went down.

Humanity did have some artificial lightning in the form of fire. So in most societies you probably wouldn’t go to sleep right away after the sun went away. But since wood wasn’t always available, it’s a good guess people weren’t staying up till 2 at night. Unless you’d have guard duty.

Now go back 200 years

Now we go back 200 years. It is estimated that if you were living 200 years ago in a civilized area, you’d get approximately 9 hours of sleep.

Sure, there were more types of light, but still not nearly as much as today.

Things changed when the lightbulb was invented and light became more accessible everywhere. Now suddenly it seems like we’ve won the battle against the night.

Productivity goes up everywhere, and people get more time to chill at night. More time to read. More time to enjoy friends and family. More time to do things that are not conducive to good sleep.

Light fucks up your sleep

In the last couple of decades, things have become even worse as far as lightning is concerned. Now we’ve got a little screen with us at all times that emits light that blocks melatonin production: Smartphones. What this means is that when your eyes receptors get exposed to blue led lights, your brain gets the signal that it’s daytime.

This is bad news. Since your circadian rhythm depends on simple cues to know when it’s time to wake and be active – or sleep and slow down.

Therefore you need to be careful what you expose yourself to.

Getting your circadian rhythm back in order is a biggie for a lot of issues, but it’s too big to talk about in this post.

Unnatural light at night is a big one though.

So let’s assume you’re a body. You’re carefully regulated by light to know when to be active or not.

Hundred thousands of years of evolution shaped you in a way that when it’s dark…. You go into rest mode.

Now science comes along and creates artificial light.

It’s 11 PM and after a long day you’re tired. But the light in your house tells you that it’s still 6PM.

What to do? Should you be active or rest?

Now, if you’re young and are generally healthy, your sleep drive will win. But if you’re a little older, have sleeping issues, or just want to optimize your sleep… it’s a super easy win to get rid of all the light

That way you won’t confuse your body with mixed signals.

What happened to my deep sleep after I got rid of all the lights in my bedroom?

Recently I started measuring my sleep. To measure is to know, and it’s super interesting to see how much REM and deep sleep I get.

Before a little light used to enter my bedroom. I had black out curtains, but they were not completely blacking out all light.

This is a night how I’d sleep before.

Here’s a screenshot of how a regular night looks now:

This is not an isolated case. Can you see that I get more deep sleep? And a longer stretch in the beginning of the night?

Another benefit is that it’s easier to fall back asleep after an awakening.

You know that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night, and there’s light coming in? You suddenly become aware of your environment and start thinking. 

Without any light. E.g. pitch black, there isn’t anything to take your attention. So what I’ve noticed is that it’s much easier to quickly fall asleep again after these short awakenings.

Your mileage may vary, but if it’s something you struggle with… it might just be an incredibly easy solution for it 😉

Extra benefit: apart from more deep sleep, I also noticed it was much easier to fall asleep again after short awakenings at night.

Go on a pitch black adventure quest

So how do you go on a quest to make your room super dark? There are 3 simple steps. First you need to get rid of the electronics, then install dark curtains and finally do a check for the remaining light sources.

Kill electronics

Led lights emit the most wakeful type on the light spectrum. Especially if it’s white or blue. But others also need to go.

Take a good look around your room and make a list of how much electronics you see.

Best time to do this is when it’s dark, as you see them better.

Here’s a short list of common electronics:

  • Phone charger
  • TV
  • Laptop
  • Tablet charger
  • Humidifier
  • Music box

You really don’t need any of these electronics in your bedroom. Better to get them all out in your living room. 

Extra benefit: the less electronics you have in your bedroom, the less chance they will distract you from your sleep. Less light + less distraction = double whammy of better sleep.

Upgrade with pitch black curtains

The main source of light in bedrooms is street light. Especially if you live in a city, chances are you’ve got quite the influx of light.

It’s also easy to fix. Most furniture or DIY stores sell super black curtains. Otherwise, you can also buy them online.

I’m sure they can be found crazy expensive, but I’ve had great results from regular cheap ones. Around $50 if I remember correctly. And taking into account how costly sleep deprivation is, NOT getting black out curtains is more expensive than buying them.

Say you invest $50 in black out curtains. 

As a results you get 10 to 20 minutes per night more deep sleep. Now you feel more rested in the morning.

This makes you more clear minded at work. And you get a couple of small things done more every single day.

After half a year, your boss notices you’re getting more done than your colleagues.

Someone higher up is leaving, and now there’s space for someone up and coming.

The position pays $10.000 more per year, and your boss picks you.

That’s an increase of 20000% on your original investment of $50.

Talk about a high ROY investment in your sleep 😉

Anyway, the point is to illustrate that it’s a little thing to do, but can actually have a big impact on your life.

Good sleep is just a matter of doing a lot of little things correctly, and having a dark room is one of them.

Install black out curtains. You won’t regret it.

Extra benefit: installing black out curtains will make it easier to get enough sleep in summer. When the suns comes up at 5 in the morning, you won’t be woken up.

Slay the remaining light sources

Now your room should be much darker already. But. Chances are that there’s still a lot of remaining light.

After I installed black out curtains, there was still a lot of light coming around the curtains. Sure they worked. Only, they didn’t cover all the light entrances.

So I took an old plaid and covered the light coming from the top.

Beautiful? No.

Effective? Yes. 

My girlfriend had to laugh a lot when she saw this solution. She enjoys everything being beautiful and nicely organized, but I haven’t heard her complain either. Point is, good sleep is more important.

You might find some other places where there’s still light. See if you can remove it. Or otherwise hide it by putting a towel on it.

Extra benefit: you get to practice your creativity 😉

Happy sleeping

Alright that was it. Go take 20 minutes today and remove all your electronics from your bedroom. After that order black out curtains. When they arrive, install them and see if there’s any light remaining.

Go and remove that. Or put a towel over it.

If you’ve never slept in a completely dark room before, you’re going to be in for a cool experience.

It maybe a bit weird at first, but it will definitely help you sleep better.

Going to bed feels even more natural to me now, and I just feel calmer in bed. I also fall asleep faster.

Removing light is one of the few things you can do to improve your sleep massively that only take about an hour maximum to implement. You’d be a fool not to take advantage of this simple method 😉