We know that exposure to computer, tablet, and TV screens at night sabotages sleep. They emit a blue light that mimics sunlight, thus inhibiting the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. However, sunlight is nevertheless necessary for sleep, as long as you get plenty of it during the day. Most Americans do not get enough sunlight. If you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid, daily natural light is one strategy to help manage your autoimmune low thyroid disorder.
The average person spends less than an hour a day outside. It’s even less for most shift workers. Insufficient exposure to sunlight suppresses melatonin synthesis. Sufficient melatonin plays a role in modulating inflammation and preventing autoimmune Hashimoto’s low thyroid flares.
A study in Finland examined one group of rats living under fluorescent lighting and another group that only received natural sunlight through windows. While both groups were exposed to the same amount of light and dark, the rats living with natural light produced significantly more melatonin.
The artificial light wasn’t detrimental. Rather it was too weak — the sunlight was seven times brighter than the fluorescent light. Researchers theorize the varying levels of light throughout the day — dawn and dusk — also causes sufficient melatonin production.
To boost nighttime melatonin, you need plenty of lux, a measurement of light intensity. During a sunny day, lux levels reach 50,000. Indoor lux reaches mid hundreds at the most. For most of human history we have lived with natural light and it’s important to the function of the body and brain.
A daily dose of sunlight is vital to many systems in the body that it is an easy but important way to shelp manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Why melatonin and circadian rhythms are important
If you have had insomnia you understand the importance of enough sleep.
Melatonin and the sleep-wake cycle, also called circadian rhythm, affect most every system in the body. Many studies demonstrate the importance of a healthy circadian rhythm for immune, hormonal, and mental health and to better mange Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
For example, one study showed that women suffering from PMS had low melatonin levels and that just two hours a day of sunlight exposure increased their melatonin levels and reduced their symptoms.
A German study showed people with mood imbalances had better serotonin levels after and improvement of symptoms after just one week of light therapy.
Another study showed participants showed a 160 percent increase in melatonin after 30 minutes of exposure to a light box.
The more balanced your sleep-wake cycle is the more regulated your immune system is, thus taming Hashimoto’s low thyroid symptoms.
How to get plenty of outdoor light in an indoor life
It can be difficult getting enough sunlight when you’re indoors all day.
Spend time outside as much as you can. Eat lunch outside and go for a walk on your breaks. Perhaps you can work outside on your laptop.
Work near windows that let plenty of natural light in. A study demonstrated employees working near a window received twice as much light as those who didn’t. They also enjoyed more sleep.
If you can’t get enough natural light, consider investing in a good light box. Light therapy has been shown to help relieve sleep and mood imbalances and may help you better manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Look for a light box that gives off at least 10,000 lux and is wide enough for sufficient exposure. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics gives criteria for a reliable light box, which they recommend using for at least a half hour in the morning.
Ask my office for more advice on managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid with functional medicine.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.