In North America, whether your cabin is in the mountains, at a lake or on the seashore, the arrival of shorter days is one of the universal signs that summer is winding down. Soon, it will be time to trade days at the swimming hole for autumn hikes and hot cider. As autumn approaches, those early sunshine-filled mornings will be replaced with a dark sky and early sunsets will be pushing us indoors for long evenings by the fire.
Fortunately, a cabin lifestyle can inspire you to spend time outside even as the frost comes, and the cold winds blow. This is a good thing. A daily dose of natural, outdoor light is essential to a healthy circadian system, a critical element to whole-body health.
Functioning on an a roughly 24-hour cycle, your circadian system controls things like sleep/wake cycles, eating habits, digestion, and body temperature. According to the Mount Sinai Light and Health Research Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, if our circadian rhythms become disrupted or desynchronized, our metabolic and neurobehavioral performance, including sleep, can be compromised. In simple terms, this means that many of the functions you rely on for a normal day — productivity, alertness, creativity, appetite regulation, happiness, mood regulation, stress and anxiety management — can suffer either due to disruption of your circadian rhythms or through a ripple effect due to insufficient sleep.
Research and Dr. Mariana Figueiro, expert on healthy lighting, professor and director of the Mount Sinai Light and Health Research Center, explains that your circadian system is looking for a contrast.
“Healthy lighting is as simple as bright days and dark nights,” says Dr. Figueiro. “It’s really that simple.”
To keep your circadian system synchronized, you need to expose yourself to adequate light, every day. For perspective, it’s helpful to understand the difference between indoor and outdoor light. Dr. Figueiro points out that a bright sunny day provides 80,000-100,000 lux at the eyes (lux is a measurement of the total amount of light that falls on a surface) and a cloudy day is 5,000 – 10,000 lux. Most homes are around 50-100 lux. There is no true substitute for authentic, natural light.
Cabins with interiors that are filled with natural wood face an additional challenge. The wood is gorgeous and soothing to the senses, but natural materials like wood and stone risk creating a dark interior.
How much light do you need each day? The ideal is 1-2 hours each day, preferably in the morning. Bright light in the morning and earlier in the day can help you fall asleep earlier and keep your circadian system aligned. Exposure to bright light in the evening will keep you up later, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Figueiro points out that adequate exposure to natural light during the day helps establish a higher threshold of tolerance to evening light and can help minimize the negative impact of artificial evening light.
Happy, Healthy Cabins
If you’re living the cabin lifestyle, it’s likely you’re already getting adequate light exposure . . . naturally. The great outdoors often beckons you to go outside to play or even sit on the deck while enjoying a morning cup of coffee or tea. Cabins are also often built with large windows. As if you needed more encouragement to enjoy those spectacular cabin views, sitting by these windows so you face the outside is another way to get natural light on your eyes.
As fall approaches and daylight shortens, embrace the change. Step outside to smell the fresh, fragrant air and stay connected to the outdoor environment that makes your cabin special. Besides, time spent outside makes that toasty, snuggly interior feel that much better. Isn’t that part of what cabin time is all about?