You might think you’ve tried every trick in the book for a good night’s sleep. From breath work and CBT to gadgets and apps, the wellness space is awash with techniques and products that promise a peaceful, uninterrupted night’s sleep, and if you struggle with insomnia, it’s likely you’ve experimented with them all—often to no avail. But the real secret to enhanced sleep could (or perhaps, should) be staring you right in the face.
According to Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist and associate professor of neurobiology, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and host of the Huberman Lab podcast, one of the most important practices for healthy sleep is to ensure you view sunlight each morning. “View sunlight by going outside within 30 to 60 minutes of waking,” he says. “Do that again in the later afternoon, prior to sunset.” For the most effective use of the technique, which is backed up by scientific studies, he recommends viewing between two and 10 minutes of outdoor light first thing.
Crucial to balancing our circadian rhythms, viewing sunlight also triggers an increase in (healthy levels of) cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine, all hormones that are key to improving immune system function, mood, and energy. As well as promoting wakefulness and our ability to focus throughout the day, this simple habit also “starts a timer for the onset of [the sleep hormone] melatonin,” which helps our bodies understand when it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. Cue a better night’s kip.
It’s worth noting that this habit is much more effective (50 times more, in fact) if you go actually go outside to view sunlight, rather than taking it in through a window. However, if you wake up and it’s still dark, Huberman recommends turning on artificial lights—or using a SAD lamp, such as Lumie’s Vitamin L—and then going outside once the sun rises.
One of Huberman’s biggest wellbeing tips for a healthier life all around, getting outside in the morning is not just easy—it’s totally free. “It is perhaps the most important thing that any and all of us can—and should—do in order to promote metabolic wellbeing, promote the positive function of your hormone system, and get your mental health steering in the right direction.”