Tag Archives: Sleep

Sun exposure in morning helps protect against cancer and heart disease

The circadian rhythm is a variation in physiology and behavior persistent with a cycle length close to 24 hours, and regular sun exposure and dark exposure are is necessary to keep the cycle intact.[1] The circadian cycle in humans is approximately 24-hours in length and must be reset on a daily basis in order to remain in synchronization with the external environment. Sun exposure at the correct times of day is exceptionally important to human health, and when the cycle is disrupted by lack of light, such as that experienced by shift workers, or by those who live constantly indoors, it leads to a feeling of being “out of sync.”  Disruption of the circadian rhythm may lead to increased breast-and/or-colorectal cancer risk in women,[2] [3] and research has demonstrated that disruption of circadian rhythms may lead to a profound increase in the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, lung cancer[4] and other cancers.[5] [6] 

According to the Journal Sleep Health, morning daylight exposure helps to reset the circadian rhythm or properly maintain it, which leads to better sleep at night.[7] The authors and researchers used a specialized device to measure the type of light that keeps the circadian rhythm of the human body properly set. By comparing workers in different buildings for sleep quality, they determined that those who received higher levels of morning light had considerably better sleep quality. They stated this conclusion: “The present study is the first to measure personal light exposures in office workers using a calibrated device that measures circadian-effective light and relate those light measures to mood, stress, and sleep. The study’s results underscore the importance of daytime light exposures for sleep health.” See also this link: http://sunlightinstitute.org/sleep-quality-is-improved-by-exposure-to-nature-and-sunlight/Sun exposure. Alive and awake in the sun.

Insomnia is a terrible problem in our modern life. To a great extent, that problem could be solved by arising early and taking advantage of an hour of morning sun exposure.

Safely enjoy your sun exposure, sleep tight and improve your health!

[1] Jeanne F. Duffy, M.B.A., Ph.D. and Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D. Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology. Sleep Med Clin. 2009 Jun; 4(2): 165–177.

[2] Davis S, Mirick DK. Circadian disruption, shift work and the risk of cancer: a summary of the evidence and studies in Seattle. Cancer Causes Control 2006;17:539-45.

[3] Reparto di ChirurgiaGenerale A/D, PoliclinicoSant’Andrea, Sapienza Università di Roma. [Night work as a possible risk factor for breast cancer in nurses. Correlation between the onset of tumors and alterations in blood melatonin levels]. Prof Inferm. 2007;60:89-93

[4] Papagiannakopoulos T, Bauer MR, Davidson SM, Heimann M, Subbaraj L, Bhutkar A, Bartlebaugh J, Vander Heiden MG, Jacks T. Circadian Rhythm Disruption Promotes Lung Tumorigenesis. Cell Metab. 2016 Jul26;(16)30312-2016.07.001.

[5] Vignesh Shanmugam, Amro Wafi, Nawaf Al-Taweel and Dietrich Büsselberg. Disruptions of circadian rhythm

Increase the risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.  Journal of Local and Global Health Science, 2013:3.

[6] Bratsun DA, Merkuriev DV, Zakharov AP, Pismen LM. Multiscale modeling of tumor growth induced by circadian rhythm disruption in epithelial tissue. J Biol Phys. 2015 Aug 21. [Epub ahead of print]

[7] Mariana G. Figueiro, Bryan Steverson, MA, Judith Heerwagen, PhD, Kevin Kampschroer, MA, Claudia M. Hunter, PhD, Kassandra Gonzales, MS, Barbara Plitnick, RN, Mark S. Rea, PhD. The impact of daytime light exposures on sleep and mood in office workers. Sleep Health June 2017;3:204-215.

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Sun exposure is good for sound sleep and health in infants and adults.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD: friend of the Sun.sun exposure and sleep

Babies who cry at night rather than sleep can wreak havoc on the health, wellbeing and work performance of their parents, so any natural method of helping the baby to sleep well would be welcomed in most families. One of the best natural methods is to expose the baby to outdoor light, and research showed that infants who slept well were exposed to significantly more early-afternoon light than their counterparts who did not sleep well.[1] We have discussed previously in this blog that circadian rhythms are controlled to a great extent by sun or the lack thereof, and these researchers stated, “These data suggest that light in the normal domestic setting influences the development of the circadian system.” Proper circadian rhythms are also vitally important for adults, and when disrupted predict an increase in illness and death from many maladies, particularly from our number-one killer, cardiovascular disease.[2]

Melatonin, which should exhibit high levels at night, is a sleep inducer, and its production is enhanced when the lights go out at night. But, for that to happen, there must be sufficient bright light earlier in the day.

For babies or adults, here is how the system should work: When we awake to sunshine, light enters the eye and stimulates serotonin production; we then quickly become awake and invigorated, and melatonin is suppressed. At day’s end, however, the bright light disappears (or at least that is how nature intended it), melatonin levels rise, and serotonin levels diminish. We begin to feel sleepy and ideally go to bed for a good night’s rest. It is a perfect system for our needs—that is until we stay up far beyond biologically natural hours by using artificial lighting.

Is there and answer to a disrupted circadian rhythm and poor sleep quality? Yes! A paper entitled Circadian clocks optimally adapt to sun for reliable synchronization has the answer.[3] In it, the authors explain that circadian rhythms are best synchronized by sun. It therefore occurs that to escape the ravages of electric lighting, it would be a good idea to reset our biological clocks daily by being out in the morning sun and at other times, when possible, and to avoid long hours of light exposure at night. This could be one of the best therapies possible when we feel “out of synch.” And, catching some sun throughout the day would also keep serotonin levels higher and keep our moodiness in check. All of us know that we feel better when we are in the sun. This, coupled with enhancement of health, demonstrates that our friend, the sun, is an essential companion for optimal living.

So take care of your babies as nature intends, and also take care of yourself with non-burning daily sun exposure.

[1] Harrison Y. The relationship between daytime exposure to light and night-time sleep in 6-12-week-old infants. J Sleep Res. 2004 Dec;13(4):345-52.

[2] Jason Brainard, Merit Gobel, Benjamin Scott, Michael Koeppen  and Tobias Eckle. Health implications of disrupted circadian rhythms and the potential for daylight as therapy. Anesthesiology. 2015 May ; 122(5): 1170–1175.

[3] Hasegawa Y, Arita M. Circadian clocks optimally adapt to sun for reliable synchronization. J R Soc Interface. 2013 Dec 18;11(92):20131018.

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Sleep Deprivation, Metabolic Syndrome and Sunlight

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

It is becoming increasingly obvious that lack of sleep is a major risk factor for human health. In a recent study reported in the journal Sleep Medicine,[i] 2579 adults without metabolic syndrome, were assessed for sleep habits for 2.6 years to determine their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, also known as Met S. Met S is a group of metabolic disorders (high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels and insulin resistance) that are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The participants were aged between 40 and 70 years.

Those who slept and average of less than 6 hours daily were 41% more likely to develop Met S than those who slept 6-7.9 hours. Among the measurements that were particularly concerning, were a 30% increased risk of high blood glucose and excess belly fat (both indications of future diabetes), and a 56% higher risk of high blood pressure. The researchers concluded that “Short sleep duration is an independent risk factor for incident metabolic syndrome in a population-based longitudinal study.”

Indeed, Lack of sleep can be deadly. Forbes Magazine online ran an excellent article on sunlight and sleep,[ii] in which they stated the following statistics: “In 2012, 60 Million Americans filled prescriptions for sleeping pills, up from 46 million in 2006.” The article discusses the potential dangers of sleep medications, showing that those who take 18 pills per year have a tripling of the risk of death compared to those who take fewer than that 18. It then describes the results of research showing that people whose workplaces have windows are able to sleep about 46 minutes per night more than those who have no natural light access.  Those who had more exposure to sunlight also were generally happier, had fewer ailments and experienced better vitality than their counterparts without windows.

Many individuals have difficulty sleeping long and soundly enough to feel refreshed. A study by Dr. Julie Gammack exposed test subjects to 30-60 minutes per day of direct sunlight, and according to the Saint Louis University health web site, “Nursing home patients who were exposed to natural light had improved sleep quality, less difficulty falling asleep, fewer episodes of wakefulness during the night and greater satisfaction with the amount of sleep they got.”[iii] Other research by Dr. Ayoub and colleagues in Alexandria, Egypt demonstrated that there were several factors associated with insomnia among the elderly. [iv] Having five or more diseases was associated with a 7.5 times increased risk, anxiety was associated with a 1.9 times increased risk, and depression with a 1.74 times increased risk. There was only one factor that reduced risk. Sunlight exposure was associated with 43% reduced risk. Likely, this was due to the production of serotonin and melatonin due to sunlight exposure (see the last paragraph. Other research has shown that sleep disturbances are more common in sub-arctic areas during the dark time of the year.[v] The message? If one wants to sleep well, sunlight exposure during the day is imperative.

This research on windows is particularly interesting because the effects of sunlight in that case could have had nothing to do with vitamin D, since the sunlight exposure came through windows, which block the UVB light that produces vitamin D. It is likely that the positive effects of sunlight in this case were produced by increasing serotonin levels (a natural mood enhancer) in the brain during the sunlight exposure, and then allowing melatonin (a natural relaxer) during the night.

Lack of sleep is a common, and perhaps deadly, malady. The sun is not our enemy, but a vital friend. Embrace it, but do not burn.

[i] Jang-Young Kim, Dhananjay Yadav, Song Vogue Ahn, , Sang-Baek Koh. A prospective study of total sleep duration and incident metabolic syndrome: the ARIRANG study. Sleep Medicine 2015;16:1511-1515.

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/06/18/to-get-more-sleep-get-more-sunlight/

[iii] Gammack, J. Quoted in Medical News Today, April 10, 2005.

[iv] Ayoub AI, Attia M, El Kady HM, Ashour A. Insomnia among community dwelling elderly in Alexandria, Egypt. J Egypt Public Health Assoc. 2014 Dec;89(3):136-42.

[v] Bratlid T, Wahlund B. Alterations in serum melatonin and sleep in individuals in a sub-arctic region from winter to spring. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2003 Sep;62(3):242-54.

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Sleep Quality is improved by Exposure to Nature and Sunlight.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

A good, sound sleep is important to human health, both physical and mental. According to Dr. Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, “Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity.” She and her colleagues at the University of Illinois recently published a new study demonstrating that a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need.[1] The study showed that exposure to nature, which they dubbed “greenspace,” was associated with a more restful sleep. Other surroundings such as a sandy beach with an ocean view were also conducive to better sleep. One of the measurements used to qualify an area as greenspace was the availability of sunlight.[2]

I can attest to the fact that when I regularly walk through the pines and aspens located in the high mountains near my Nevada ranch, I sleep better at night. When I don’t get enough outdoor time in the trees and sunlight, I begin to suffer from what my friend, Dr. William Grant, calls nature-deficit disorder, or NDD. My whole mood is altered, and not for the better. Dr. Grant is not only a great sunlight scientist, but an avid birdwatcher, which takes him out daily do get his dose of nature.

We have a primal need for sunlight and natural surroundings, and too many city dwellers do not connect with sunlight and nature. Don’t fall into that trap. There is an adage that says, “What gets scheduled gets done.” Plan to be outside as often as possible and soak up some sun when it is available. Natural surroundings with sunlight are better than any psychiatrist or physician for maintaining mental and physical health.

[1] Grigsby-Toussaint DS, Turi KN, Krupa M, Williams NJ, Pandi-Perumal SR, Jean-Louis G. Sleep insufficiency and the natural environment: Results from the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Prev Med. 2015 Sep;78:78-84.

[2] http://news.aces.illinois.edu/news/u-i-study-men-people-over-65-sleep-better-when-they-have-access-nature.

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