In the July 4, 2011 edition of the New York Times, Laura Beils article “In Eyes, a Clock Calibrated by Wavelengths of Light” describes a fascinating series of research studies involving how we respond to exposure to artificial light and it affects our hormonal rhythms.
We humans are designed to live diurnally, that is work in the daytime and rest at night. Yet more and more, our environment is increasingly cast in light that is predominantly blue, as in daylight, and for longer hours. Artificial light, from computers to headlights to environmentally friendly room lighting is trending towards light that energizes and excites our senses. What we expect, and perhaps need, at night is warm light – long wavelength rays to calm us, prepare us for rest, and allow melatonin to be produced. Long wavelengths – yellow, orange, and red (and the invisible infrared) – are the warm colours that we also associate with fire and heat.
We only foolishly expect our bodies to ‘naturally adapt’ to the increased exposure to excitatory electromagnetic radiation (blue light). Our physiology requires a minimum amount of rest and quiet for proper long-term optimal functioning. At a minimum, extended over-excitation through daylight and artificial light sources can easily be seen to contribute to some mild learning disabilities (memory and executive function) and fatigue-related attention deficits. On the other end of the spectrum, people with severe light-related hormonal imbalances can exhibit extreme health and emotional problems.
The idea of ‘hormone-sparing light’ is a concept that will soon see greater interest in the retail markets. We can expect to see domestic and industrial lighting that is more custom tailored to the needs of the inhabitants, and to the purpose of the space. This is commonly practiced now to some degree – industrial and academic lighting tends to be lighted in blue to activate our sympathetic nervous responses and elevate our metabolism, while domestic spaces are bathed in warmer tones to relax us and prepare us for sleep. Future developments will see home and office automation that will balance not only intensity or level of illumination, but also the hue and saturation to promote different states of physiological ‘tuning’, such as for productivity, waking up, studying, excercising, or having a long hot soak in the tub. Of course, this will all be controlled manually or automatically through your favourite portable device.
Parents of children with learning problems are encouraged to consider reducing lighting in the evenings and to restrict exposure to electronic devices. Video games, for example, are not only highly energizing mentally, they require extended exposure to additional blue wavelengths that the body simply does not need, and is ill-equipped to deal with in excess. If all the chores are done and homework is accounted for, there is little need for more than 60 minutes of dedicated video gaming time in an evening. It is ultimately more important for the distracted child to learn to be quiet and still than to become more adept at something almost always completely devoid of benefit.
We are only beginning to wake up to the importance of our visual world. Knowing how we are affected by visual input allows us to control the stress it imposes upon us and to use its effects to our benefit. Parents can implement some simple elements in their home lives to lessen problems of distraction, and poor concentration and memory, all stemming from poor sleeping habits. See www.drboulet.com to learn more about learning and reading difficulties.
Enjoy the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/health/05light.html?_r=1
In Eyes, a Clock Calibrated by Wavelengths of Light
By LAURA BEIL
New York Times