Light, Sleep and Your Health

Posted on August 18, 2008. Filed under: health, wellbeing | Tags: , , , , |

Overview of biological circadian clock in huma...Image via Wikipedia

In natural health circles it has long been known that you need at least 15 minutes of full spectrum sunlight on your face 2 to 3 times a day to initiate a proper wake-sleep cycle. Now researchers have found new cells in the eye that may give us new clues as to why.

Full spectrum light is actually crucial to your health, and avoiding all sunlight is really dangerous to your healthy. These days kids and office workers are some of the unhealthiest people due to the amount of time they spend indoors in articificial lighting. It worries me quite a lot to see so many children and teens spending so much time in front of some kind of screen, be it a computer, a TV or a game like the Wii. Now cudo’s to Nintendo as it is one way to help our screen addicted kids to exercise, but it doesnt’ help them to get outside where they will be positively affected by sunlight and fresh air.

Now that I have had my say, here is the research I talked about earlier:

“A set of nerve cells in the eye control our levels of sleepiness according to the brightness of our surroundings, Oxford University researchers have discovered. The cells directly regulate the activity of sleep centres in the brain, providing a new target for the development of drugs to control sleep and alertness.

Immune systems, cognitive performance, and mental health are all affected by the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Sleep disruption is known to be associated with a range of problems, including depression, immune impairment and a greater risk of cancer. Many drugs have been developed to modify sleep-wake cycles but these are crude, affecting many chemical pathways and different parts of the brain at the same time, and have side-effects.

‘Sleep and the disruption of sleep patterns is a huge problem in the 21st century,’ says Professor Russell G. Foster of Oxford’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, who led the work. ‘Our working culture of long hours and shift work, with the 24/7 availability of almost everything, have conspired to demote sleep in our priorities.’

The presence and absence of light can affect levels of sleepiness and alertness. It’s why dimly lit rooms lead us to feel drowsy, while bright lights stimulate wakefulness. During the Second World War it was shown that brightly lit factories had a more alert and productive workforce than dimly lit factories, but until now little was known about how this happened.

‘We have discovered a new pathway that modulates sleep and arousal,’ Professor Foster explains. ‘If we can mimic the effect of light pharmacologically, we could turn sleep on and off.'” Physorg.com

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Let Them Sleep: Researchers Prove Adolescents Need To Sleep In!

Posted on June 12, 2008. Filed under: wellbeing | Tags: , , |

So you can’t wake your adolescents in the morning for school? They get up grouchy and can’t seem to string two words together? Researchers have found out why…

Delaying school start time by one hour positively

affects adolescents’ cognitive performance

Delaying an adolescent’s school start time by one hour has a positive effect on his or her cognitive performance, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Thursday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

The study, authored by Orna Tzischinsky, PhD, of Emek Yezreel College in Israel, focused on 47 eighth graders from two classes, who were divided into experimental and control groups for a two-week period.

On week one, the experimental class began their school day one hour later than usual (at 8:30 a.m.), while the control class began at the regular time (7:30 a.m.). On week two, both classes began at 7:30 a.m. The subjects were asked to maintain their habitual sleep-wake pattern. Actigraphs were worn to monitor sleep-wake patterns. On the fifth day of each week, the students performed a cognitive test.

According to the results, during the first week, the experimental class woke up 51 minutes later on average than the control class, while during the second week, the experimental and the control class woke up at the same time. Bedtime and sleep efficiency remained the same during both weeks.

“The cognitive tests showed better performance with the experimental group in comparison to the control group on the first week,” said Dr. Tzischinsky. “The results demonstrate that longer sleep duration positively affects cognitive functioning.”

It is recommended that adolescents get nine hours of nightly sleep. (Physorg.com)

Your teenagers are going to love this, high schools need to take note of this and perhaps now we parents are able to understand why our kids are acting the way they are. They’re not shiftless, they’re just tired.

As a parent of 4 children the last now 14 I understand the frustrations of getting them to bed at night and out of bed in the morning. It is worth the struggle to get them into their beds a little earlier so that they can get the amount of sleep a fast growing teenager needs. Not only is all their energy going into growing, thier brains are also growing at an enormous rate all of this growing uses up a lot of energy and these kids need their sleep.

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Insomnia, Stress and The Circadian Light Show

Posted on June 8, 2008. Filed under: health, wellbeing | Tags: , , , |

Overview of biological circadian clock in humans. Biological clock affects the daily rhythm of many physiological processes. This diagram depicts the circadian patterns typical of someone who rises early in morning, eats lunch around noon, and sleeps at night (10 p.m.). Although circadian rhythms tend to be synchronized with cycles of light and dark, other factors - such as ambient temperature, meal times, stress and exercise - can influence the timing as well.

Image via Wikipedia

Light is good for you, I’ll restate that: SUNLIGHT IS GOOD FOR YOU

I have spent half my life telling my clients, especially my insomniac clients that they need to have at least 15 minutes of sunlight on their face and forehead at least once a day. For obvious reasons this needs to be before 10am in the morning or after 3pm in the afternoon, however this is one of the surest cures for insomnia and night time stress along with a whole lot of other health challenges.

Sunlight contains the whole spectrum of colours and therefore really the only light on this planet that sets and re-sets our circadian rhythms. As you can see from the quote below this is important. The worst offending lights are fluorescent lights and as good little greenies we have all switched to low energy fluorescents in our bid ro help save the planet. A worthwhile cause, I absolutely agree, but what is it doing to our health?

One idea around this is to install full spectrum fluorescent globes, which are alittle bit expensive, but worth it for you health, and we may see more of these globes being offered now that the research is in. However, please take note and get out into the sun (without sunscreen) every day to boost your Vitamin D levels and set your circadian rhythms.

“Like a wristwatch that needs to be wound daily for accurate time-telling, the human circadian system — the biological cycles that repeat approximately every 24 hours — requires daily light exposure to the eye’s retina to remain synchronized with the solar day. In a new study published in the June issue of Neuroscience Letters, researchers have demonstrated that when it comes to the circadian system, not all light exposure is created equal.

The findings have profound implications for exploring how lighting can be used to adjust our bodies’ clocks, and they could redefine the way lighting is manufactured, according to Mariana Figueiro, lead author of the paper and assistant professor in the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Short-wavelength light, including natural light from the blue sky, is highly effective at stimulating the circadian system. Exposure to other wavelengths — and thus colors — of light may necessitate longer exposure times or require higher exposure levels to be as effective at “winding the watch.”

Nocturnal melatonin, a hormone produced at night and under conditions of darkness, is used as a marker for the circadian clock. Scientific evidence suggests that disruption of the circadian system — and thus the melatonin cycle — may result in increased malignant tumor growth, as well as poor sleep quality, lack of alertness, seasonal depression, and immune deficiencies.” (Physorg.com)

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and… Sleep, Sleep or You May Not Be Able to Make Sense of Your World

Posted on May 21, 2008. Filed under: health, wellbeing | Tags: , , , , |

Overview of biological circadian clock in humans. Biological clock affects the daily rhythm of many physiological processes. This diagram depicts the circadian patterns typical of someone who rises early in morning, eats lunch around noon, and sleeps at night (10 p.m.). Although circadian rhythms tend to be synchronized with cycles of light and dark, other factors - such as ambient temperature, meal times, stress and exercise - can influence the timing as well.

Image via Wikipedia

Scientists have found that we need sleep even more than we thought. In a study that kept people awake and then tested their responses proved that they could manage ordinary, day to day tasks. however they found it really difficult to make sense of what they saw. How often do we go without sleep partticularly man on shift work and women going through menopause and yet do not stop to think about what the lack of sleep is doing to us and how it can alter our perception of the world?

“The scientists found that even after sleep deprivation, people had periods of near-normal brain function in which they could finish tasks quickly. However, this normalcy mixed with periods of slow response and severe drops in visual processing and attention, according to their paper, published in the Journal of Neuroscience on May 21.

“Interestingly, the team found that a sleep-deprived brain can normally process simple visuals, like flashing checkerboards. But the ‘higher visual areas’ – those that are responsible for making sense of what we see – didn’t function well,” said Dr. Michael Chee, lead author and professor at the Neurobehavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS. “Herein lies the peril of sleep deprivation.” Physorg

If you’re finding it difficult to get enough sleep try these simple suggestions:

  • a glass of warm milk (yes, it does work because it has calcium and tryptophan both great for soothing the brain.
  • make sure it is dark in your bedroom, your pineal regulates your circadian rhythms through light and the absence of it
  • be sure to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight on your face every day (around 8-9am or 4-5pm for sun safety, this light is important as it will signal the pineal to regulate your circadian rhythms
  • if you are not asleep within 1/2 an hour to an hour get up and make a cup of warm milk and sit quietly in the dark and sip (when you get up at night use as little light as possible, none if you can get away with it, I use the light in my oven.
  • sit up and do 15 minutes of meditation (my favourite) and then just snuggle back down again and allow yourself to drift off
  • body temperature is really important for sleep, our core temperature must cool for us to be able to sleep, so stick a foot out or both hands and Chill!

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