“Dude, ever since we moved in here, I literally cannot sleep a wink. I’ve been taking melatonin and everything! Nothing works! Can you please help me?” -roommate
I get asked about how to optimize sleep all the time. I guess I’m just good at it (I bet my parents would be proud). I told him sure, I’ll help you out. So, he started telling me every cup of coffee he drank that week and the times at which he had them. Every melatonin he had taken and every dose of NyQuil he had downed. After a few minutes I finally looked at him and said “Hey, chill. I already know what the problem is”.
I walked into his room, picked up a t-shirt off of his floor, and laid it on top of a small LED indicator light that was blinking in his room. Then I looked at him and said: “Alright, sleep well “.
Needless to say, he went to bed pretty pissed off at me. I guess he thought I was being a jackass and didn’t want to help him.
A funny thing happened though, the next morning I’m about to leave for class and I notice that his door is still shut and his noise maker on. I smiled and went on with my day.
When I came home, he says to me: “Dude! I literally slept through all of my classes today and I don’t even care! What did you do?”
“It’s simple I said… it was the LED light that was keeping you awake.”
Now that’s not the only story that I have about helping someone to sleep better or the surprisingly unhealthy effects of artificial lights, but that story is a perfect example of how they are both related.
I believe this story illustrates perfectly how such a tiny and often times overlooked light can be such stressor in your environment.
The thing is, not all lights have a negative impact on the body. In fact, some lights used the correct way, can boost your mood and energy, as well as clear your head and help heal wounds 5x as fast!
I mean, top performers and professional athletes wouldn’t use light hacking on a daily basis if there weren’t substantial benefits would they?
Now when I sat down with my blank legal pad to start writing my outline for this post, my issue wasn’t “I hope I have enough to write about”
My issue was, “holy shit, how am I going to condense all of this to fit into one post??”
The answer is, I can’t. But here is my best shot at compacting everything I know about how you can use light to make you happier, healthy, and more awesome.
I know you come here for tips on how to improve your performance and kickass all day, every day. So let’s start there
Light exposure for a better performance
I know the story I told you earlier made light sound like the bad guy. But in reality, certain light is essential for your health.
For one, natural sunlight is an essential ingredient for your body to synthesize vitamin D. You can take all of the vitamin D supplements you want, but unless your skin has direct exposure to sunlight during the day, most of that supplemental vitamin D is going to waste. As it turns out, natural light is required to activate any vitamin D that enters your body. Do you want an example of this? A study found that people’s vitamin D levels were much higher in the summertime, due to an increased exposure to sunlight.
So with that being said, here is one of my favorite and most simple light hacks! In fact, this might be the most simple advice I ever give you.
Go expose your skin to natural sunlight for 15-20 minutes a day! Important catch here: NO SUNSCREEN DURING THIS TIME
Worried about skin cancer? Look, in my opinion, 15-20 minutes a day is not going to cause a sunburn. I can go 45 minutes in the middle of July, in nothing but swim trunks in the heat of Mississippi without getting a sunburn and if you know me, and my skin tone… yeah enough said.
These days just about every lotion you buy has SPF in it. Humans literally never get exposed to the sun anymore! It is my personal belief that the today’s obsession with sunscreen is largely contributing to what I would call the world’s “energy crisis”
Adequate exposure to natural sunlight does more than just boost your vitamin D levels though. Sunlight has been shown to naturally boost your testosterone levels (study), and improve your mood due to an increase in dopamine and endorphins (the happy hormones)
Now I understand that this is harder to do in the winter. It’s currently 20 degrees outside where I live. You have two good options when it comes to implementing this advice.
Putting it to use:
Tough it out for 15 minutes outside with a little skin exposed. I know, during the winter months this can be brutal. You probably think I’m crazy just for suggesting it. But hey, I’m just trying to help.
Buy a UVB lamp. The sun emits a broad spectrum of light throughout the day. UVB is the type of UV rays that are part of what we refer to as “natural light”. It isn’t the same light that is in UV tanning beds, as it occupies an entirely different part of the spectrum. You can buy one of these lamps, and stand under it for 15-20 minutes a day. I guarantee you will see and feel the benefits of the extra light exposure.
Light Tip #2: Light exposure on your eyes
“Ok! he has officially lost his mind! No sunscreen and no sunglasses?? I’m going to shrivel up and die if I walk outside!”
Look, just hear me out for a second and let me hit you with some #facts.
The eyes are a very complex mechanism. Especially when referring to how they take in light from the environment and convert that to an image on your brain. Seriously, if you ever study how this mechanism works you will be amazed.
Let me break it down for you: The eyes are loaded with what we call photoreceptors. These little cells absorb light from the environment and send a signal to your occipital cortex, where the light is then processed and converted to an image. This image is then sent to another part of your brain where you perceive it as your reality.
I want to tell you more about these photoreceptors though. Notice a keyword I said when describing them. LIGHT! Photoreceptors take in and process LIGHT!
Now do an exercise with me real quick. Sit back, close your eyes, and go through your entire day yesterday. How often were you standing outside, with no sunglasses on? Oh, and looking out of your windows in your house or car don’t count, as those are all UV filters just like your sunglasses.
Really think about this! When you start to add it up, it will probably be a lot less time than you think! I know it was for me! When did our society become so petrified of sunlight?
Putting it to use:
This is another simple light hack. When I’m walking to class in the morning, I just don’t wear sunglasses. I have tested this numerous times, one-day wearing glasses, the other not. Literally, every single time I expose my eyes to natural light I feel MUCH more energized, and clear-headed than the days I wore sunglasses. This is a simple, no risk test you can try for yourself. And that is why it has become one of my favorite light hacking tips to recommend to people.
Light Tip #3: Blue Light
By now, you’ve exposed your skin and eyes to a little bit of natural sunlight, and you are feeling more energetic, and relaxed than you have in a while. The light hacks I just told you, are simple, and so effective that there is no need for me to write more. But I’m going to.
So far you have learned that natural sunlight = good, and artificial LED light = bad.
The only problem is that we live in a technological world. Our phones, tablets, TV’s, and our laptops, all emitted an artificial type of light called “blue light”. The sun doesn’t emit very much blue light during the day, so our bodies haven’t evolved to be able to process this light very well.
I’ve always been a tech junkie. Spending much of my time on my computer, phone, or flying my drone. I specifically remember my dad coming into my room one day when I had been on my laptop for like 6 or 7 hours straight (I know). He looked at me and said “Get off that damn laptop and go outside! You are going to burn your eyes out!” Being an angry teenager going through puberty, I snapped back at him and continued to stare at my screen for eternity.
I look back at that now and laugh. The irony of me writing this article is too much for me to handle! My dad was freaking right. This artificial light is not good for you!
Study after study has proven that overexposure to blue light can create hormone imbalance, alter your mood, and throw off your circadian rhythm. (study)
Putting it to use:
I have a simple, easy to use light hack that will rid you of the negative side effects of blue light forever. You are going to love this.
Throw away your phone, laptop, tablet, and TV and go live off the grid in the woods for the rest of your life.
Ok, I was trying to be a little funny there… sorry.
The reality is, we can’t escape blue light. Here is what my day consists of:
-Wake up at 7 a.m. , meditate, and stretch
-Go make breakfast while checking my emails (on my phone)
-Sit through class for a few hours a day looking at a projector screen (and my laptop, and my phone)
-Come home and study for 6+ hours (on my laptop)
-Wind down, maybe watch a movie, or read a book
Play some video games with the boys for an hour or two
The moral of the story is I am exposed to blue light all day, which is why I’m hypocrite on this matter.
There is no escaping blue light. But there is defending against it.
Introducing: Blue blocker glasses!
Blue blocker glasses are just like any other type of glasses. The only difference, they feature an orangish lens which completely filters out the blue light, protecting you from the harmful exposure.
I have used blue blocker glasses for the past few years and I can tell you it has been one of the most effective changes I have ever made regarding my mood and sleep cycle.
All you have to do is put them on an hour before bed and they will filter out any harmful artificial light that would normally disrupt your sleep and hormones.
I find that when I wear my blue blocker glasses while reading or working before bed, I can instantly fall asleep after when I’m done and wake up feeling completely refreshed and well rested.
How to use: There are so many brands of blue blocker glasses on the market. My favorite brand is Warby Parker. They are custom made and look great on me. They offer over 60 frames to choose from and can even make the lenses with your prescription. I can’t recommend these glasses enough. Like seriously… please buy these if you look at screens often. I wear them all day while I study and only take them off whenever I’m outside (refer to light tip #2)
Light tip #4
Ok, this light hack honestly plays off of #3 a bit. Laptops and TV’s aren’t the only way that people get exposed to harmful blue light every day. There is a much more sneaky exposure that isn’t talked about much.
What is it? LED and Fluorescent lighting.
Yep. There it is. Those awesome, energy efficient “save the planet” bulbs are not helping your body. LED and compact fluorescent bulbs emit high levels of artificial blue light, and harmful UV light respectively.
Do you remember the story about my friend that I told you about earlier? He slept better than he had in weeks when I simply covered up an LED indicator light in his room! They really can have that much of a negative impact on your body!
Here is something that I know you will find crazy. The Canadian government did a study in 2009 to observe the effects that compact fluorescent lighting has on the body. Well apart from the obvious disruption of circadian rhythms and hormone imbalance that are so common with this type of light. They concluded that the UV light put off from fluorescent bulbs is so strong that a person should stand no closer than 1-2 feet away from a bulb while having their skin completely covered and protected when around them.
That is not cool.
At the end of the study, the Canadian government stated that compact fluorescents should be made with not only energy consumption and economy in mind, but also the human body. Right on Canadian government. Right on.
Light tip #5: Low-Level Light Therapy
Low-level light therapy. Doesn’t that sound scientific? Well, it is. Very scientific in fact.
We’ve chatted about how easy and simple these awesome light hacks are. But would it be a propper Innately Human post if you didn’t learn something new and awesome?
Low-level light therapy is a bit of a tongue twister and pretty hard to type, so I’ll be using its common name: Cold lasers
Yeah, that’s right. We are talking high powered lasers now.
I can confidently say that owning a cold laser has been one of the best investments for my own health to date. I use mine almost every single day. I mean seriously, these things are awesome!
Cold lasers are exactly what their name sounds like. They are high powered lasers that don’t generate a lot of heat. The uses for cold lasers are widespread. Because of their widespread use, you would be hard-pressed to find a sports team not using laser therapy, as they have been found to improve muscle recovery and athletic performance.
Cold lasers are also great for reducing pain and inflammation. I use mine all of the time to reduce pain on my hip. In fact, I was first introduced to the idea of using lasers as a therapy tool by our local chiropractor.
Last year, I came to him complaining of terrible neck pain from a tennis injury. My neck hurt so bad I could hardly sleep at night. I tried massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy. All to no avail. I went to our local chiropractor and had him start using his high powered laser on my neck. Within one week the pain was gone! I kid you not. ONE WEEK.
This sparked my interest in lasers for therapeutic use. So much so that I had to get one for myself. It has become indispensable for me.
What is the mechanism behind this? Leaving out the nerdy details, it can be explained like this:
Every single cell in your entire body works off of energy. I don’t have to tell you that. Well, what are lasers but an ultra-concentrated form of energy? That’s all they are. So, when your cells are feeling worn out and fatigued, you can use a cold laser to reenergize and recharge your cells. I believe that’s part of the mechanism of cold lasers healing injuries. The laser is energizing the previously exhausted cells, allowing them to get back to their job.
I am going to give a disclaimer here: Do not use any sort of laser or light therapy without adequate knowledge of the body, or the effects using such devices can have on the body. There is a right and a wrong way to use them, and done incorrectly can cause damage. Low-level light therapy is a remarkable breakthrough in medicine, but the last thing you would want to do is cause harm because you didn’t know how to use it correctly. If you would like to know anything about cold lasers and low-level light therapy, feel free to shoot me an email. I love talking about them.
The light we are exposed to plays such a crucial role in our health and wellbeing. I am serious when I say that I strongly believe that the advice I just told you can help you dramatically. I wouldn’t write it otherwise.
I just gave you a ton of information. I don’t expect you to have absorbed every word of it on the first read through. Here is a step by step summary of all the information we just talked about.
You’ve gone outside and gotten some natural sunlight on your skin. You’ve shielded yourself from harmful blue light by limiting technology exposure before bed and using your kickass blue blocker glasses. On top of that, you have thrown all of your LED and compact fluorescents in the trash. You are feeling better. Your sleep is better. You are happier and more energetic. You feel so much better, that you decide to write me a comment saying “Wow Matt, so insightful! These light hacks are awesome! I wish I would have known this years ago!”
Ok… I’ll stop. But you can’t blame me for believing in the information I’m giving you!
The thing about these light hacks is that they are just so simple! I mean really. What’s 30 minutes of your day one afternoon to switch out some light bulbs and go outside and have some fun? It doesn’t get any easier than that.
This is clearly a subject that I am very passionate about. In saying that, I would really like to write a more in-depth guide to light hacking. I plan on making it different than this guide though. I want to add a more personal aspect. Like taking you into my day-by-day routines and experiments with light hacking, and exactly how I went about removing harmful lighting from my life and replacing them with lights and routines that recharge my cells instead of draining them.
The thing is, not everyone wants to read this type of material, so I don’t plan on posting it for everyone to see. Instead, I intend to send it exclusively to my subscribers, because I know that they are serious in their intention to take a hold of their health and take back their life.
So, if you’re looking for access to powerful, step-by-step advice to supercharge your health, go ahead and subscribe. You’ll thank yourself for it later.