Darkness and Light: Bulbs, Concentration, Cancer, Depression and Insomnia
October 10, 2013
My daughter-in-law is an opera singer and mentioned tonight that several of the singers at her current production are complaining about the rehearsals being held in a windowless room with fluorescent bulbs since “everyone knows they wear out your adrenals”. A family I knew pulled their children out of public school shortly before the end of a school year, tired of hearing that they were hyperactive when they behaved well at home. Things went so well that they decided to home-school the following year; they built on a classroom, complete with fluorescent lights since they were “going to do it right” . Two weeks into the year they were ready to send the kids back to school-on Ritalin. I suggested that they let the kids do their work near a window or on the back porch, as they had done initially. End of problem.
Fluorescent lighting, even with CFL bulbs, has a flickering effect that is almost imperceptible to the eye, but which hyper-stimulates the medulla, the part of the brain that controls the autonomic or “animal” part of the brain. That increases anxiety-hence the adrenal exhaustion comment, and sensitivity to external stimuli, hence the hyperactivity. I have counseled my clients literally for decades not to use them, and now the Federal government is forcing us to have them at home and banning the sale of high-wattage incandescent bulbs. ( I read recently that in Europe they are getting away with selling them as heat lamps.)
The blue tones of the light emitted also interrupt the normal serotonin/melatonin production cycle, disrupting the hormones most connected to depression, anxiety, and sleep. Exposure to sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, the feel-good-be-happy-wake-up hormone. Exposure to darkness, which is increasingly difficult to achieve, triggers the production of melatonin, which winds you down for rest and sleep. Too little contrast between the two leaves the body chronically “on”, albeit at a very low functional level. Think of it as running on a battery that’s almost dead. You can turn your camera or whatever off and back on when it’s almost dead to get a couple more minutes of use, but in relatively short order the battery dies completely and you have to recharge or replace it. We can only recharge with full sunlight, full darkness,and lots of the right foods, and each of us is rather hard to replace!!
I encourage my clients to avoid using any overhead lights after dinner, but the CFL bulbs are especially detrimental. Multiple studies have linked the lack of darkness to immune deficiencies (including increased cancer risks) insomnia, and depression. (The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard has some interesting statistics and information. Great radio interview with him on “All Things Considered” at http://www.npr.org/2013/03/03/173365741/turning-it-down-cities-combat-light-pollution-by-going-dim) Within the studies was clear evidence that the color frequencies with the worst health impact were the blues and greens-the colors in fluorescent lighting and all of our night-lights and power lights on the huge assortment of electronic gadgets we have in every room.
So what to do? Incandescent bulbs, especially the “full spectrum”type, muscle-test the best for most people. You can still find them at some flea markets and discount stores in the higher wattage not available in most places. Yes, they use more electricity, but so does hot water and I’m not ready to subject my body to cold showers all winter. Remember, you shouldn’t be using many lights after dark anyway! Next best thing is the “daylight” (not “full”) spectrum LED bulbs, which are much more expensive. If you or a friend live in Washington State you’re in luck-they heavily subsidize LED bulbs so they are much less expensive there than in most other places.
Another good article on risks I haven’t gotten to here is at http://www.naturalhealth365.com/stop_cancer/cfl_light_bulbs.html