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.'”

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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.

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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.” (

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