light and sleep

Is technology making us fat?

There was a time when TV was blamed for the obesity epidemic. Then focus switched to sugar containing foods. Now that we have reduced the amount of TV watching and are more aware of the effects of high sugar foods, we as a nation continue to struggle with weight gain.

In reality, its not just about being a couch potato or making poor food choices. We have badly neglected another major change in how we spend our lives and how it affects us: We are exposed every day to multiple artificial sources of light close to our faces. There is in addition an excitement and "buzz" generated by the interactive nature of social media that draws us in and keeps us glued to these sources of light.

Let me explain:

The human body has two timing devices built in. One is a timer that counts the duration of wakefulness. The longer you have been awake the sleepier you will get. The other is a 25 hour clock that needs to be adjusted every day in order to stay on time. It allows for adjustments with shortening and lengthening of days.

The clock's proper adjustment relies on various signals, the most important of which is the presence or absence of light. The presence of light as it passes through the eyes, via a nerve circuit to the brain tells the mind to be awake and alert. The absence of light leads to the production of melatonin in the brain which reminds the body and mind that it is time to rest.

With all the light sources that we expose ourselves to, we hardly give our brains the opportunity to perceive the absence of light. It is like living in Alsaka or Norway in the summer, for all of us. This leads to a shortening of the sleep cycle and development of the effects of chronic lack of sufficient sleep.

Choose the best answer:

Chronic lack of sleep is a major cause of:

1. Food cravings.

2. Slowing of the metabolism.

3. Increased need to consume calories to stay awake and alert during the day.

4. Feeling exhausted, leading to decreased level of activity.

5. None of the above.

6. All of the above.

Yes you guessed it right. All of the above.

What if a whole nation of 300 million people sleeps on average an hour less than it did 20 years ago and 2 hours less than at the turn of the 20th century?

Sleep well. Sleep enough. Be rested and perform at your best!

 

 

Sehatu Sleep Granite Bay CADeep Relaxation Training at Sehatu Sleep, designed with sleep medicine and psychology principles, empowers people by giving them skills to turn the mind switch on and off on command and to relax when needed. Classes can be attended via Skype.

 

Sehatu Sleep and Yoga Studio, located in Granite Bay, CA,  also provides a variety of Yoga classes, including Yin, Gentle and Restorative Yoga, as well as Meditation classes, for individuals who are interested in practicing a healthy lifestyle at any age, starting at any time in their life at any skill level. 

 

The Human Condition: Is The Light Bulb Killing Us?

Just in the lifespans of our grandparents and great grandparents, life has changed completely. Its not just televisions, internet, cell phones and other electronics. The arrival of electric power had a dramatic effect on human life. We extended our waking day. For some of us it enables us to stay awake as late at night as we want. And many of us do want to stay up at night. It would not have been practical to stay awake at night without lights. Now, of  course lighted gadgets make it even easier. In those dark days without artificial light, insomniacs would still be counting stars, singing and telling each other stories, if it were not for the light bulb.

As we have made progress, and seemingly made great strides in improving the human condition, we have also come across a great hurdle. Our bodies are not designed the way we are trying to use them. Try using a truck as a sports car or vice versa. You get the idea.

The human body, by design, functions on a day/night cycle. The presence of light during the day and the absence of it at night is designed to set up a series of chemical reactions that depend on these signals. It is called the circadian rhythm. How is it supposed to cope with a never ending presence of light then?

The system by its design allows the body to maintain its functions during the night by synchronizing it with the onset of sleep. Sleep allows us to rest, recharge, manage the immune system, maintain metabolism including body weight, appetite, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, process our thoughts, consolidate and process memories and performs countless other functions.

When, by extending our daylight hours through the use of technology, we constantly tellour bodies that days are consistently long, we interfere with the ability of the body to allow us sufficient sleep. Short sleep equals disruption in all those functions listed above and more.

So now, with us trying to do more, more, more, with our bodies and minds, with less sleep, less consolidated memory, abnormal blood sugar and blood pressure controls, weaker immune systems that are poorly modulated, increased appetite, and feeling tired, is it fair to complain that we have a generation of overweight people; that diabetes, hypertension and heart disease occur earlier in life; that we have more allergies and immune system problems; that the businesses of energy drinks and coffee are booming; that we use billions of dollars worth of sleeping pills, antidepressants and anxiety medicines?

By not understanding how our bodies are designed to function, and not following the rhythms of nature, are we not killing ourselves?

Later Addition:

On September 10, 2012, the New York Times published a blog article about light exposure and sleep. A link to the article is copied here:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/really-using-a-computer-before-bed-can-disrupt-sleep/?smid=pl-share

Really? Using a Computer Before Bed Can Disrupt Sleep
A recent study showed that exposure to light from tablets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which plays a role in the sleep cycle.