The Light That Burns: Night-Time Illumination and Melatonin Suppression

File:U.S. Atlantic Seaboard at Night.JPG

NASA Earth Observatory (CC)

Some interesting studies are cited that indicate meditation, yoga, fruit, and darkness all increase our melatonin (a pineal gland metabolite; often referred to as a miracle hormone). We know that artificial lighting and bad diet have left us chronically deficient in this hormone – a fact with vast implications for neurodegenerative diseases -but just how far back does the deficiency go if, at one time, we were eating a high percentage of fruit biochemistry for millions of years in the African tropics?

Via The Nexian:

Darkness is good for us; it is an ally that heals us. It is something to be embraced, not feared. From Palaeolithic times, up until very recently, the only major sources of light we would have experienced once the sun went down would have been starlight, moonlight and firelight. Life on this planet has evolved for three and a half billion years with a regular and dependable day-night schedule. Now many of us are subject to electrical lighting long into the night, or over the entire duration, the most likely suspect being street lighting. This is far out of balance from how the sleep/wake cycle of our brain’s evolved. This artificial light pollution has a highly detrimental effect on our circadian rhythms, by repressing our nightly melatonin production, the release of which is triggered by darkness. Many people may not consider light to be a pollutant, or to even have the potential to be damaging as it is much less tangible than other environmental pollutants. But excess light, in the wrong place, at the wrong time should be considered a major pollutant that threatens health and well-being. This is especially important given that is well known that melatonin production declines with age as it is, and it is implicated with an ever increasing number of health impacts beyond simply making us feel sleepy when darkness falls.

The health ramifications of disturbed sleep and the direct effects of melatonin suppression should be considered separately, while at the same time being intimately linked. Melatonin is an endogenous neurohormone made in the pineal gland in the brain. It is a very potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger, protecting cells, and has neuroprotective properties. It also affects DNA repair, interacting with DNA helicase enzymes and via its actions on several key genes involved in DNA responsive pathways. It acts as a buffer against DNA damage, cellular mutation and cancer, and lowered levels of the hormone have been linked to several kinds of cancer in a number of different studies. Melatonin suppression has also been linked to impaired immune system function and to a number of different diseases. It plays a role in glucose metabolism, and its suppression has been linked with type-2 diabetes. The negative effects of disturbed sleep and sleep deprivation are serious; having been linked to depression, car and workplace accidents, learning and memory deficits and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and an overall increase in mortality.


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4 Comments on "The Light That Burns: Night-Time Illumination and Melatonin Suppression"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Mar 16, 2014 at 5:57 pm |

    for many years I was a night owl
    I’d often awake and think
    wat! noon already?
    then I moved off the grid with no solar
    and I started folowing the suns comings & goings
    with a nap in between
    once I got back on electricity
    I went back to staying up late and getting up late
    without feeling better or worse
    one way or the other

    • sharkonwhisky | Mar 26, 2014 at 8:00 am |

      You are definitely the exception here as oppose to the norm. I know of a few people who work night shifts and they are of the opinion it certainly doesn’t do their quality of life any good. And even if you don’t feel any worse, the risks to health from melatonin suppression such as potential DNA damage and cellular mutation are longer term risks that you can’t really equate to how you are feeling one way or another at a given time.

  2. Mark Pugner | Mar 17, 2014 at 6:35 am |

    Native advertising for Tony, right?

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