Light'N Up Your Life with "Natural" Full-Spectrum Lighting
Most of us have come to spend our waking hours indoors...eliminating sunlight from our daily diets. But, as science continues to discover and understand the role light plays in our lives, its use as both a therapeutic and preventative tool is becoming increasingly evident.
Like water and food, the body uses light in a variety of metabolic processes. The human eye is a window to the exterior world, where light penetrates the retina and stimulates essential biological functions, such as glandular functions. The human eye perceives light, known as the visible spectrum, that ranges from 400 to 700 nanometers. Natural light is divided into colors, which are essential to our health and well being. How well we perceive those colors plays a vital role in the way we feel.
Our inability to perceive colors adequately, as is the case on a grey winter day or under poor artificial lighting, can negatively affect our mood and energy flow. In the winter we invariably have less energy, while in the spring we come alive. For many, these mood swings are severe and typify a condition know as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Those affected with S.A.D. literally take on the characteristics of animals prior to hibernation. They sleep a lot, usually change their diet, and gain weight.
According to Dr. Julian Whitaker (Health & Healing, Vol.2,No.13,12/92), "light enters your eyes and has a stimulatory effect on your hypothalamus, pineal gland, and pituitary gland--the master hormone-secreting gland of the body. Lights that approximate the sun's full spectrum of energy keep your glands stimulated, happy, and healthy. Lights that do not, can make you sick".
Conventional lighting has an unbalanced spectral distribution, throwing a depressing greenish-yellowish hue upon a room that distorts colors, stresses our eyes, and creates an unpleasant atmosphere. This unbalanced light can produce imbalances in us.
Just as an improper diet of foods may cause malnutrition, an improper "light diet" may cause malilumination, according to photobiologist John Ott, who coined the term. Ott has been studying the effects of natural and artificial light on plants, animals, and humans since 1929. His experiments convinced him that full-spectrum lighting is so essential that he considers light to be part of the body's nutritional needs.
His assertion of the importance of light on health is based on a number of studies including one in Sarosota, Florida(1973), in which he replaced normal cool-white fluorescent light bulbs in an elementary school classroom with full-spectrum lighting. Concealed time-lapse cameras took random sequences of students and teachers in four first grade classrooms. Under the cool-white fluorescent lighting some students demonstrated hyperactivity, fatigue, irritability, and attentional deficits. In the classrooms with full-spectrum lighting, behavior and classroom performance, as well as overall academic achievement, improved markedly within one month after the new lights were installed. Several learning-disabled children with extreme hyperactivity problems miraculously calmed down and seem to overcome some of their learning and reading problems while in the classrooms with the full-spectrum lighting.
Our body operates on a very distinct 24 hour cycle controlled by bright light (the sun). As light enters our eyes, it influences every cell in our body by stimulating the pineal gland. The pineal produces the powerful hormones serotonin and melatonin (melatonin is synthesized from serotonin which occurs chemically in the pineal gland). Bright light raises levels of serotonin during the day to keep you alert and full of energy, while the dark of night boosts melatonin to help you sleep.
Our body's inner clock, referred to as circadian rhythms, governs timing of sleep, hormone production, body temperature, and other biological functions. When these rhythms are forcibly shifted, whether by shortened daylight or flying across time zones, our body tries to adapt but is not always successful. Production of serotonin and melatonin is disturbed and becomes erratic. Shift workers, people with sleep disorders, and travellers crossing several time zones feel "out of sorts' because their daily cycle is "out of sync" with the sun.
Throughout history people have noticed the negative effects of too little sunlight. Probably one of the first was Christopher Hufeland, a German physician. In his 1797 book, The Art Of Prolonging Life, he commented on the devitalized state of people held prisoner in dungeons for long periods of time. He suggested their sorry state of health was not due to poor diet and inactivity, but to the lack of sunlight in their cells.
Since Hufeland's day, numerous studies have shown that phototherapy, or light therapy, can fight a variety of maladies ranging from depression to fungal infections, such as athletes foot.
The night shift (midnight to 8 a.m.) is often called the graveyard shift, and it is for good reason. People who work nights are two to four times more likely to fall asleep on the job and have accidents, according to the National Commission of Sleep Disorders Research.
The Sleep Disorders Clinic at St. Luke's Medical Center in St. Louis, under the direction of James Walsh, Ph.D., asked 30 graveyard-shift workers to perform a series of tasks every hour for one night. He gauged their sleepiness using standard tests. He replaced their 500 lux lighting the next night with 9,000 lux lights. After only one night under the bright lights, the workers' accuracy showed dramatic improvement, while their sleepiness decreased. "One night's exposure to bright light seems to have shifted their biological clocks," Dr. Walsh explained, " enabling them to perform better on subsequent nights."
Taking PMS Light-ly
The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can be seriously disruptive for many women. Although more studies are needed, a San Diego Psychiatrist, Dr. Barbara Perry, has found that women treated with two hours of bright light in the evening experienced a reversal of their PMS symptoms. Her findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry ("Morning Versus Bright Light Treatment of Late Luteal Phase Dysphoric Disorder" 9/89), indicate that bright-light treatment may become an effective alternative treatment to drug therapy for PMS.
Is it possible that artificial light can block the benefits of certain vitamins and minerals? In his book Mega-Nutrients For Your Nerves , H.L. Hembold, M.D., shows how full-spectrum light enters the eyes, stimulates the brain, and facilitates the absorption and utilization of specific nutrients. When some of the energy bands of the light spectrum are missing, certain vitamins and minerals are inadequately absorbed and poorly utilized.
A study, conducted by Dr. John Ott, revealed that mice living under fluorescent lighting live an average of 7.5 months, whereas those living under natural unfiltered daylight were much healthier and lived an average of 16.1 months.
From The Booklet "Light,N Up Your Life" Copyright 1996 by Ray Allard #TX4-455-683