The season of light
As the darkest days of the year approach, we encourage you to take your lighting seriously. “Take my lighting seriously?” you may ask. Yes, light toxicity is a real occupational hazard for us digital entrepreneurs, and never so much as in the season of darkness… winter. Here in our first blog and newsletter, we are sharing the core secret behind the success and longevity of our online business. We take our lighting seriously. This is not just hyperbole—this is real, science-backed methodology for beating the digital blues. “Oh, you mean light sensitivity? Yeah, I don’t believe in that,” you may think. Or maybe, “Yeah, light sensitivity? Sure, I believe.” The thing is, light affects our biology whether we like it and believe in it, or not. We know this from reading the science (continue to the end of this post for research), and we know this from our personal experiences (of which we will also share more later in this post). But first, we want to share, in all seriousness, the 2 primary ways we as digital entrepreneurs, respect the light. 1. Daytime lights must be brighter. Open windows, buy full-spectrum bulbs, take walks. Getting brighter light ensures we get the serotonin we need to get a restful night of sleep (serotonin is converted to melatonin at night). Scientists say our biology expects (and needs) approximately 1000x the intensity of most indoor lighting, on a daily basis, in order to set up the chemical precursors of good sleep at light. 2. Nighttime lights must be dimmer. Turn off the bright bulbs, use sleep-lights in red or amber tones throughout the entire home, and stay cozy. If evening lighting is the same as daytime lighting, the body will continue to act as though it is daytime and we won’t feel sleepy at the time we should be going to bed. Scientists say our biology depends on at least 8 hours of dimness—no brighter than the full moon or a single candle flame—per night, to achieve 6 hours of quality sleep at night. These two steps are scientifically proven to increase daytime alertness and protect sleep at night. As a motivated, high-achieving individual, you know this will give you a competitive edge. We at Pioneer Web Studio discovered the importance of these daytime and nighttime measures through trial and error and burnout and research and starting over and burning out all over again. In order to help you avoid the same pitfall, we now offer our mistakes (and wisdom), to you. In the beginning of our entrepreneurship journey, we worked hard, long, fast, and reckless. If a project was moving forward we had no problem “burning the midnight oil” to see it through. We didn’t realize it then, but by continually pushing the end of day further out, we were becoming addicted to something. And like all addicts, we were finding we needed more, and more of that something, to get the rush. In in those days, we thought (hoped) we were becoming addicted to our own progress and success. Up before the sun, logged on and making things happen. Working late, pumping out new creative works, writing drafts of messages that would be scheduled to send the next business day… Until… the fall. The treadmill. The drag. The hours of staring at the same goal list, only, it wasn’t getting smaller anymore. What had happened? And, even more troubling, why didn’t we really care anymore? We had burned out. At a certain point, there wasn’t any more to give, and we had created for ourselves a whole fleet of “hungry dragons” needing to be fed. And we had created them out of our literal biological wellbeing and vitality. A circadian biologist could easily have peeked in and said, “Hey, you know that rush you get when you keep working late isn’t accomplishment, it is adrenaline and ATP catalyzed in response to that light you are staring at.” They could also have said, “Hey, you know, if you put a red-filter on your lights and dimmed them down a bit, you wouldn’t have those pesky racing thoughts when you try to go to sleep after this draft is complete.” Or even, “Hey, the fact that you didn’t take a walk outdoors today means you won’t have the melatonin you need to complete your sleep cycle tonight.” But we didn’t have that insight at the time, and so, we ran ourselves into the ground. Now, older, wiser, more researched and more experienced, we offer you our own mistakes, in hopes that you can learn from them and avoid the digital blues yourself. We don’t want you to burnout. We don’t want you to suffer. We don’t want you to lose that exciting motivation that made you want to start your online business in the first place. That is why we are encouraging you to… TAKE YOUR LIGHTING SERIOUSLY! You have seen the new brightness features come out on your phone and computer. You know, night shift? Screen time? Use them! Schedule your light exposure so you don’t have to remember. You may also have seen “smart lights” and “sleep lights” come out for home use. Seek them out, and use them! These are not just for sensitive individuals—we are all sensitive! Whether we like it or not, light impacts our biology at a fundamental level and no one is immune to its effects (especially not digital entrepreneurs whose very livelihood depends on spending many hours bathed in the worst forms of artificial light). The research is clear. Our experiences are clear. We need to take light more seriously if we want to have a happy, healthy, productive relationship with technology. If you are interested in source material for the recommendations in this post, please continue below. The scientific reviews below collectively cite more than 250 peer-reviewed studies about light and other lifestyle choices that impact our circadian biology. Hatori, M., Gronfier, C., Van Gelder, R., Bernstein, P., et al. (2017). Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, 3:9. This review of 23 papers concludes that light has a more powerful effect on human chronobiology than any available drug, and that personalized control over ambient lighting to enhance alertness during the active period and protect sleep during rest time may reduce the risk for health disorders including certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, and psychiatric disorders. They highlight the particular benefits of high-intensity blue light in the afternoon, and the particular dangers of the same lights at night. Hotz Vitaterna, M., Takahashi, J., Turek, F., (2001). Overview of Circadian Rhythms. Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 25, 85-93. This review of 14 papers concludes that humans alone have the mind of their own to disobey their internal clock and that the increasing tendency toward a 24 hour lifestyle does not bode well for health and wellbeing, including alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption is shown to affect circadian rhythm, but circadian factors such as the light-dark cycle may also influence alcohol consumption. Lopez-Minguez, J., Gomez-Abellan, P., Garaulet, M. (2016). Circadian rhythms, food timing and obesity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75, 501-511. This review of 39 papers concludes that what, how, and when we eat, exercise, sleep and expose ourselves to light can decrease obesity and increase weight loss. The effects come from the circadian lifestyle itself, as well as favorable changes to the genome that the lifestyle causes. Walker, W., Walton, J., DeVries, C, Nelson, R. (2020). Circadian rhythm disruption and mental health. Translational Psychiatry, 10:28. This review of 177 papers concludes that resynchronization of circadian rhythms improves symptoms of mood disorders including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.