Research has linked bright morning light with improved sleep, mood and reactions – ideal for that early 5K run
March is Sleep Awareness Month – which we think is quite ironic, as we’re all set to lose an hour of slumber next weekend when the clocks go back. We know that sleep (or lack thereof) is something that troubles a lot of us – whether you find it hard to drift off, or struggle to wake up, there’s nothing worse than feeling tired and groggy all day afterwards.
And this is not something that has been helped by the pandemic. With many of us turning to technology to stay in touch and keep entertained, our exposure to blue light has increased, wreaking havoc with our sleep hormones and keeping us up all night.
The good news? Running could be the answer to our bedtime blues; specifically, when we choose to head outside for our run. A recent study of office workers found that participants in who were exposed to bright, morning light (between 8am and 12pm) took an average of 18 minutes to fall asleep, compared to 45 minutes for a group who had low light exposure. “The first group also slept for around 20 minutes longer and experienced fewer sleep disturbances,” says Linda Geddes, science journalist and author of Chasing the Sun (Wellcome Collection, £8.99).
And longer sleep wasn’t the only benefit either, with improved mood and reduced stress being cited by the participants. “A recent German study also suggested that exposure to bright light in the morning boosted people’s reaction speeds and maintained them at a higher level throughout the day,” Linda continues. “It also prevented their body clocks from shifting later when they were exposed to blue light before bed.” Great for our pre-sleep scrolling habit.
So, how long does your run need to last for you to reap the rewards? Studies suggest that as little as 15-30 minutes of daylight exposure will make a difference, although more may be needed in winter months when the light levels are lower. We’re off to set our alarms for an early 5K…