The power of light to change your world for good
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It’s sleep awareness week. I’m lucky enough to conk out the minute my head hits the pillow. But an estimated 20% of us work shifts. Our guest last week Professor Russell Foster explained just how deadly that disruption to the sleep-wake cycle (or SCRC) can be. listen to his 10-minute presentation – Innovators in Residential Healthcare: Circadian Lighting Principles & Practice | Russel Foster


For those who have no choice about working nights, there is some evidence that light can help. Another of our speakers, Shadab Rahman’s work found that adjusting the melanopic lux or blue wavelength component of light during the night shift can help nurses stay awake and then get a better nights’ sleep – Effects of filtering visual short wavelengths during nocturnal shiftwork on sleep and performance.

These reviews agree, although they both highlight the limitations of much of the research to date – 

The effectiveness of bright light exposure in shift-worker nurses: A systematic review and meta-analysis

These nurses are called ‘key workers’ here in the UK for a good reason. Perhaps it’s time we took more care of the lights so that they can rise and shine too!


Get outside or curl up indoors?

Wednesday was National Nap day. While there is some evidence that 40 winks can help to improve mood, memory and concentration – Napping: Benefits and Tips, a ten-minute walk outside may be better for you – The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


That gentle exercise will not only help you manage the post-lunch glucose spike, you will also get a burst of bright light which this paper found improved your task-switching performance later in the afternoon too.


Social Jetlag can make you antisocial…

For the last post in the Sleep Week series, I’m looking at social jetlag: going to bed and waking up just two hours later at the weekend is linked to an approximately 2-fold increased risk of both pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes along with depression and other chronic conditions.

I’m not suggesting that you give the pub a miss – I’ll be enjoying a pint of Palmer’s at the Woodman myself! Here are three ways light can help you rise and shine on Monday morning.

1/ Make sure your bedroom is completely dark to sleep when you do finally get to bed- chect that everyone’s home safe then leave the phone to charge in another room so you’re not even tempted to scroll and swipe

2/ Get a blast of bright light in the morning as close to your usual wake-up time as you can- even if your head is pounding, a breath of fresh air will set your clock.  Find a buddy or a reason to get outside if you can – knowing friendly faces are waiting in West Bay really helps me-

3/ Take a short power nap in a darkened room if you’re struggling to stay awake, ideally just after lunch but not later than 3pm. If you nap too late you’ll struggle to fall sleep and the jetlag will get even worse.

A high-calorie ‘cafeteria’ diet can make the social jetlag even worse, especially if you tuck in late at night. So make the most of the night out, but skip the curry on the way home!

Association between social jetlag food consumption and meal times in patients with obesity-related chronic diseases


Springing forward – a leap in the dark? 
Here in the UK, the clocks will go forward by one hour next weekend – a global experiment in circadian disruption that has been linked to a 3% rise in mortality during the week following the shift – Daylight Saving Time Transitions: Impact on Total Mortality
Here are three ways to help you and your loved ones to stay safe and stay on track:
1/ Plan ahead – shift evening meals and bedtimes 10 minutes earlier every day this week – you won’t notice the difference but you will ease your body clock into the new routine
2/ Get outside for at least 30 minutes every morning – you will sleep better at night, even if you’re switching off earlier than usual. The sunlight will top up your mood and memory-boosting Vitamin D levels too – your reserves may be running low by now.
3/ Plan a quiet evening next Sunday with a delicious meal and conversation with family and friends (with no screens!). 
You and your loved ones will wake up on Monday with a spring in your step 😉

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