Many of the critical biological functions carried out by our body during sleep are dependent on circadian rhythms and are disturbed by the smallest amount of light from devices such as iPods, laptops, electronic readers and television. Information provided by the journal Cancer Genetics and Cytogenetics shines a light on the importance of sleeping in a totally dark room to lower cancer risk.
Small Amounts of Light During Sleep Alters Gene Expression and Cellular Repair Cycle
The study author, Dr. Ben-Shlomo noted "damage to cell division is characteristic of cancer, and it is therefore important to understand the causes of this damage." Changes in gene expression were identified after exposure to artificial light for a period of one hour during normal sleep hours. The cellular ‘biological clock’ was altered and normal gene transcription and repair processes harmed.
This research clearly provides proof that minimal exposure to an artificial light source is sufficient to alter the expression of genes that are connected to the formation of cancer as well as genes that assist in the fight against cancer. Alteration of genetic expression is a precursor to cancer initiation, and disruption of nighttime circadian rhythm with a light source can be a trigger for carcinogenesis.
Natural Melatonin Levels Disturbed by Unnatural Light Sources
reports that exposure to electrical light sources between dusk and bedtime disrupts the physiological processes that are regulated by the hormone melatonin. This affects sleepiness, thermoregulation, blood pressure and glucose homeostasis, all essential for healthy cellular repair and maintenance functions.
Melatonin secretion controls the normal sleep-wake cycle in the body and influences blood pressure, body temperature and insulin sensitivity. Levels of the hormone begin to increase 30 minutes before bedtime. Researchers found that exposing test participants to dim light for 8 hours before bedtime delayed the release of melatonin by 90 minutes. Exposure to room light during sleep cut production of the hormone by half.
When melatonin production is delayed or halted by artificial light sources, our nighttime rhythms are disturbed and normal metabolic activity required for cellular repair are disrupted. Lead study researcher, Dr. Joshua Gooley of Harvard Medical School commented, "Our study shows that this exposure to indoor light has a strong suppressive effect on the hormone melatonin. This could, in turn, have effects on sleep quality and the body`s ability to regulate body temperature, blood pressure and glucose levels."
The numbers of artificial light-producing electrical gadgets that are part of our daily life have exploded over the past decade. Many people keep these devices in close proximity during night hours and are continually exposed to light emissions that influence melatonin production. Melatonin dysfunction increases the health risks associated with high blood pressure, temperature regulation, and insulin resistance. Dim all artificial light sources in preparation for bed and sleep in a totally dark room to lower cancer risk and maximize the rejuvenating effect of a good night sleep.