Tag Archives: windows

The Latest on Sunlight and Asthma. Lack of Windows profoundly increases Risk.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…

Asthma is a disorder characterized by inflammation of the air passages, which cause narrowing of the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.[i]  The mechanism by which sunlight may reduce asthma and its symptoms could be the anti-inflammatory properties of the vitamin D production that it stimulates in the skin.  Inflammation is often caused by proteins called cytokines that are either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory elements of the immune system.[ii]  Vitamin D has the ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production while stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.[iii] However, there are likely other attributes of sunlight, beyond stimulating vitamin D production in the skin, that have beneficial affects.

One of the most recent studies on factors that contribute to asthma showed that living in a room without windows was associated with an increased the risk of asthma of 930%,  and living in an area without adequate sunlight was associated with an increased the risk of 220%.[iv] Considering that windows filter out the UVB light that stimulates the production of vitamin D, having windows could not have reduced asthma by vitamin D production—it had to be some other factor—something that entered the room through that window glass protected the people with windows from the remarkable increase in asthma they would have otherwise had. We know that UVA light, which does pass through windows, stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator. Could it also be a bronchodilator? This explanation, of course, is theory.

Other research that indicates a direct influence of sunlight on asthma, is one by Hart and her colleagues, which showed that controlled exposure to ultraviolet light (UVR) in mice markedly limited the development, incidence and severity of asthma symptoms such as inflamed airways and lungs.[v] These researchers exposed mice to allergens that generally brought on asthma attacks and then exposed them to sun lamps for 30 minutes.   After the exposure, the allergens caused no attacks.  The researchers also stated that sunlamp exposure produced a cell type in mice, that when transferred into other mice, suppressed the immune reactions and halted symptoms. This is another indication that sunlight has a healthful effect on asthma beyond vitamin D production.

Dr. Litonjua and Dr. Weiss, noting that the prevalence of asthma and allergic diseases began to increase worldwide in 1960, hypothesized that since people have increasingly spent more time indoors, there has been less exposure to sunlight, which has led to decreased cutaneous vitamin D production.[vi] This could have further led to vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women, resulting in more asthma in their offspring. But was vitamin D deficiency the cause or was it simply sunlight deficiency? Or could it have been both?

At the health resort owned by the Sorensons, we often noticed that asthmatics ceased using their inhalers after a week or two of hiking in the sunshine. One of them decreased the dosage from 6 inhalers per day to zero in about a week. Could it have been sunlight? We believe that the combination of mostly plant-based nutrition, combined with sunlight, made the difference, and the aforementioned research provides reasonable support for that opinion.

[i] Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Asthma Facts and Figures.  Accessed 3-6-2010 http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=42

[ii] Kurtzke J. On the fine structure of the distribution of multiple sclerosis 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 inhibits cytokine production by human blood monocytes at the post-transcriptional level. Cytokine 1992;4:506-12.

[iii] Canning MO, Grotenhuis K, de Wit H, Ruwhof C, Drexhage HA.  I-alpha,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 (l,25(OH)(2)D(3)) hampers the maturation of fully active immature dendritic cells from monocytes. Eur J Endocrinol 2001;145:351-57.

[iv] Kamran A, Hanif S, Murtaza G. Risk factors of childhood asthma in children attending Lyari General Hospital. J Pak Med Assoc 2015 Jun;65(6):647-50.

[v] Hart, P.  Exposure to sunlight could reduce asthma.  Newsletter of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research 2006;3:2

[vi] Litonjua AA, Weiss ST.  Is vitamin D deficiency to blame for the asthma epidemic?  J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:1031-35.

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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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