Sunlight, Detoxification and the Quest For Health was first published in The Epoch Times by Lance Schuttler on April 19, 2022. Photo taken by the author. Sunlight is central to life as the natural cycles of light and dark influence our circadian rhythms in profound ways. In the quest for better health, working with the cycles of light to optimize this delicate circadian balance becomes crucial for the function of our brain, hormones, genes, detoxification and more. Positive developments took place in March of 2022 when the Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill that now has made its way over to the House, which is known as The Sunshine Protection Act. If the bill is passed, it will end the back and forth 1-hour time change that has been in effect since 1918. Even neighboring British Columbia in Canada is preparing to make the switch, alongside California, Oregon and Washington here in the U.S. The move is being applauded by many in the health and wellness fields because of the way the time change can influence our human physiology in a variety of non-beneficial ways. For instance, the University of Michigan conducted a study and found that there is a 24% increase in heart attacks on the Monday following the “spring ahead” time change.
In studying strokes, a 2015 study in Sleep Medicine showed that there is an increase in strokes the first two days after the time change and that people over 65 were 20% more likely to have a stroke during the first two days after the time change as well. The springing ahead time change also typically produces an increase in fatal car accidents, while the “falling back” time change results in an increase in depression for many. The fundamental reason our physiology can be thrown out of balance and create such ramifications as described above is due to our circadian rhythm not being in tune with the natural cycles of light and dark.
SunlightExposing our eyes to sunlight in the early morning signals the brain to inhibit the release of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” from the pineal gland. This light also signals to the brain to begin releasing more serotonin and other hormones, which in turn tells the body to become more awake and alert for the day. This is accomplished via a specialized “master clock” located in the hypothalamus of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN contains over 20,000 neurons that help regulate the internal clock of the human body, because of its sensitivity to the cycles of light and dark. Photons of light are picked up by the optic nerve in the human eye and signals the SCN to respond with the corresponding neurochemical release. Getting light in the eyes in the morning after waking is something Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman discusses often and has long touted the mood, outlook and motivation benefits that can occur with proper morning light stimulation. Dr. Huberman emphasizes an important point in his research as well, which is that cloudy mornings still have more than enough photons bursting through the clouds for our eyes to pick up and transmit vital messages to the brain. Thus, getting more natural light in the eyes in the morning can be a simple and beneficial way to begin one’s day. Morning light treatment is also being researched by Helen Burgess, Ph.D., who co-directs the Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan. Dr. Burgess has stated that morning light treatment “is an effective antidepressant–as effective as a pharmaceutical antidepressant.” She also notes that morning light can improve sleep quality and sleep patterns, as well as helping to reduce symptoms of chronic pain. We know of numerous other benefits of light and sunlight for the human body, which includes the production of Vitamin D and the corresponding influence of over 1,000 genes. All of this is to state that the circadian rhythm balancing effects of sunlight are exceptional for us humans and getting morning light in the eyes is a very simple action step many people can take immediately.
Blue-light DetoxJust as certain spectrums and the timing of light can be beneficial to us, other spectrums and their timing can be detrimental to us. The awareness of “blue-light” coming from devices and screens has grown substantially and there exists a robust amount of published information on ways to counter the effects of blue-light. This blue-light that comes from our devices and screens is picked up by the eyes and tells the pineal gland to stop the release of melatonin, the “sleep hormone” discussed above. When melatonin production is reduced, falling asleep and staying asleep can become much more difficult, which then can lead to a host of health issues both in the short term and long term. Simply stated, this blue-light at night disrupts our natural circadian rhythms. Fortunately though, easy solutions exist that can help reduce exposure to blue-light, including built-in light adjusting controls on many devices that we use today and also many companies offering a range of blue-light blocking glasses and technologies. Limiting screen time and device usage before bed is something that also makes sense and can be easily (or not so easily) implemented to offer further help.
EMF DetoxJust as blue light can be harmful in certain situations, the awareness of certain electromagnetic fields (EMFs) influence on biological life is growing. Wireless radiation emitted from cell phones, computers, tablets, smart devices and other devices that use WiFi have been shown to be dangerous to biological life, including us humans and the animals around us. The harmful portion of the EMF spectrum also disrupts our natural circadian rhythms through various means. Some people feel there is nothing that can be done, but there are free and easy action steps a person can take right away to begin helping.
- Unplug the router or any WiFi emitting devices at night
- Turn phone on airplane mode and keep outside of the bedroom
- Keep cell phones and devices away from the head and reproductive areas as far as possible