Preventing Sleeping Disorders Caused by Light
According to SleepMed of Santa Barbara, “20-40% of all adults have insomnia in the course of any year,” and “Over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness.” These numbers only seem to get worse with each passing year and recent studies indicate that artificial light may be the cause.
The reason has to do with your circadian rhythm, a biological process that controls countless hormonal functions in your body, including when you get tired and when you wake up. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors’ circadian rhythm would be kept in tune by the cycle of the sun, the primary source of light stimulus. The first light of dawn would trigger cortisol production, hormones causing the body to wake up, and similarly, the fading light of twilight would trigger melatonin production and signal the body to sleep.
Unlike our distant ancestors, today we have hundreds of external light sources in addition to the sun, and many of these lights don’t heed to the natural 24-hour cycle of the sun. Our bodies are in near perpetual, artificial daylight which can throw our internal clocks out of sync. According to Professor Rajaratnam of Monash University, “light emission, 30 to 50 lux, is sufficient over a week or so to delay the timing of the circadian clock as well as suppress the production of the hormone melatonin,” This decreased melatonin production can cause difficulty sleeping, insomnia and other sleep disorders.
It is important to note that not all types of light are to blame for this. The pineal gland, the gland associated with melatonin production is particularly affected by short wave blue light, found in most artificial light sources. Long wave red light, like the kind given off by a fire has much less of an effect on melatonin production, causing less sleep related problems. While there is a great deal more to study in this field, it could be that this is an evolutionary remnant from primitive humans falling asleep around a fire.
In our continuing mission to bring nature back into our lives, we have studied this effect and are working on implementing it into the EcoQube Air (http://ecoqubeair.com/). By simulating the changing light spectrum of sunlight over the course of a day, cortisol and melatonin production will be regulated on a schedule closely resembling that of our ancestors from which we evolved. By learning from our past, we hope to create the conditions for a better night’s sleep in the future.
- Kevin Land, Team ADI