Wednesday 26 July 2023

The Impact of Seasonal Daylight Changes on Women's Hormones | Marla Ahlgrimm

As the Earth rotates around the sun, our day and night patterns change. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, this is what results in the varying daylight hours throughout the year. These changes in sunlight exposure are known to influence different aspects of human physiology, including female hormone regulation. 
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that women’s hormone levels and overall well-being are directly affected by seasonal daylight hours. Today, she explains just a few of the potential effects of changing sunlight throughout the year on women’s hormones. 
Light And Hormonal Regulation 
First, Marla Ahlgrimm says it’s important to understand how light plays a role in regulating the body’s internal clock. Our circadian rhythms are biologically programmed to pick up on subtle nuances in the environment. The suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain receives signals from the eyes about the intensity and duration of the day's illumination. This then coordinates the release of hormones, such as cortisol, melatonin, and various reproductive hormones. Disrupting this delicate balance can trigger hormonal changes that might not always be pleasant. 
Seasonal Affective Disorder 
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the most common type of seasonal depression that occurs throughout the winter months. Studies have suggested a link between reduced sunlight exposure in the dysregulation of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter strongly linked to mood regulation. While SAD affects both men and women alike, women are naturally more susceptible to hormone fluctuations. These changes exacerbate the symptoms of SAD. 

Melatonin And Sleep 
The sleep hormone melatonin is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake pattern, says Marla Ahlgrimm. The day's exposure to sunlight affects the body’s production of melatonin. Shorter days lead to greater melatonin secretion. Think about how you feel at 8 PM during the winter versus 8 PM during the summer. During the former, you probably want to go straight to bed while 8 PM in August is often still bright and sunny. Marla Ahlgrimm says winter fatigue caused by increased melatonin production can affect your mood and hormones and leave you feeling more like a bear in hibernation than a woman with responsibilities. 
Vitamin D And Hormones 
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin for a good reason: your body produces it in direct response to sunlight. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that vitamin D is required throughout the body, and it plays a major role in hormone regulation. Vitamin D deficiency may disrupt estrogen and progesterone levels. When the sun goes down at 4 PM during the winter, your body can’t make as much of this hormone as it grows accustomed to during the summer. 
Strategies For Overcoming Seasonal Hormone Challenges 
Marla Ahlgrimm stresses that it’s important for women to understand the potential impact of daylight changes on their hormones. Knowing this can help you develop strategies to mitigate some of the negative side effects that tag along when Old Man Winter knocks on your door. A few things you might do include: 
  • Spend more time outdoors 
  • Move your office into a room with a large window 
  • Install full-spectrum bulbs throughout your home 
  • Practice light therapy 
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule throughout the year 
  • Exercise in the morning 
  • Take a vitamin D supplement 
The ever-changing patterns of daylight across seasons can and do have a significant impact on women’s hormone levels. From influencing melatonin and sleep patterns to affecting reproductive hormones and vitamin D production, Marla Ahlgrimm says that things that affect our circadian rhythm can also affect our hormones. Knowing the potential effects of fewer daylight hours and taking steps to reduce these effects can contribute to better hormonal health and overall quality of life.


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