Light, Sleep & School-Aged Children: A Complex Relationship

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Light is one of the most powerful signals in our environment—regulating the brain’s internal clock and affecting our sleep patterns, health, mood and more. 

Our internal clock, also called  circadian rhythm , uses light to keep our bodies in sync with the day-night patterns of the outside world. In the morning, sunlight signals the clock (and, in turn, many processes throughout the body) to “wake up.” As the day progresses to evening and sundown, the withdrawal of light lets us prepare for sleep by allowing for the release of chemicals like  melatonin.

It is particularly important that children and teenagers  get the sleep they need  to feel alert and productive during the school day, as well as for their overall health.

How and When Light Impacts Alertness

Since the brain is set up to respond to the sun, light that mimics sunlight has the greatest potential to affect  sleep and behavior. This happens when:

At home, school and work, it’s possible to harness the power of light to promote healthy sleep, to boost productivity and to improve overall well being. Both natural and artificial light can promote good sleep  if they work with the natural patterns of the internal clock .

Not enough sunlight early in the day confuses your body’s internal clock—it’s like a mini form of  jet lag . At the same time, reducing exposure to blue-rich light in the evenings allows the internal clock to make us drowsy and sleep well.

Light & School-Aged Children

If students start school without sunlight exposure, it may hinder their ability to fall asleep at night because the internal clock is lacking its most vital signal.  Similar challenges may develop for students in classrooms

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