We are all governed by circadian rhythms, lots of small internal ‘clocks’ that drive the rhythm of our day-to-day lives. Disruption of circadian rhythms have been linked to everything from brain fog to cancer, researchers have even proved that Parkinson’s Disease symptoms get worse if the patients ‘body clock’ is out of whack.
A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria.
In a strict sense, circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, although they can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature.
Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings.
There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle. (source)
You have to wonder if the increases in ‘modern’ diseases that we are seeing across the world has as much to do with our biological clocks being out of sync as the processed, additive filled muck that some manufacturers try to brainwash us into eating. scientists seem to think it may be a major contributing factor in the epidemic of cancer and other serious diseases we are facing.
So how can we check if we are out of sync with the natural rhythms that for tens of thousands of years guided our lives? Researchers in Colorado found a way.
Now obviously turning off everything and having no access to any form of electricity is pretty difficult to arrange these days…unless you get off the beaten track and go camping.
Research published in the journal Current Biology describes what happened on the experimental trip in Colorado.
Before setting off on the trip the subjects were monitored going about their daily lives, working, playing sport, time at home, etc. They also recorded their exposure time to artificial and natural light.
On the camping trip the campers were not allowed to take phones or any other electronic device with them. The camp site was set up where there was no light pollution from streetlights, cars or even cities on the horizon. The only light in the darkness was from the campfire. Within a week, even those campers who had identified themselves as ‘night owls’ had fallen in with the natural rhythm of waking at sun up and starting to settle down at sunset. All reported that they felt more energised and less ‘foggy’ in the morning.
The journal Nature quotes Professor Charles Czeisler as saying:
“There are many reasons why people get insufficient sleep in our 24/7 society, from early starts at work or school, or long commutes, to caffeine-rich food and drink. But the precipitating factor is an often unappreciated, technological breakthrough: the electric light. Without it, few people would use caffeine to stay awake at night. And light affects our circadian rhythms more powerfully than any drug.”
In such a short time, just a couple of hundred years we have moved at breakneck speed from a society that was required to work with nature to a society that can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, without nature guiding us. These changes started slowly and have accelerated as we have moved towards the present day, and there is no respite unless we consciously decide to take a day off the computer, a day without the mobile phone. That said, most of us face light pollution from shop fronts who literally have money to burn leaving their lights on all night, through to street lights that seem brighter all the time, defying all but the thickest of blackout linings on our curtains.
So bad is light pollution that we can see few stars from our city homes.
I remember a night at Lake Nakuru Kenya…oh my, I have never seen anything like it. Looking up the night sky looked like a sheet of black velvet strewn with the brightest, clearest diamonds you could ever see. The same sky, on a clear night in Nairobi was nowhere near as spectacular, just a small percentage of those stars visible at Lake Nakuru could be seen through the bright lights that scattered their rays into the sky over Nairobi.
Ron Chepesiuk wrote a report on light pollution and health for the United States government. It is well worth reading. You can read it here but here’s a small section of it that might surprise you:
According to “The First World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness,” a report on global light pollution published in volume 328, issue 3 (2001) of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, two-thirds of the U.S. population and more than one-half of the European population have already lost the ability to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. Moreover, 63% of the world population and 99% of the population of the European Union and the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) live in areas where the night sky is brighter than the threshold for light-polluted status set by the International Astronomical Union—that is, the artificial sky brightness is greater than 10% of the natural sky brightness above 45° of elevation.
Hundreds of millions of people have lost the ability to see the Milky way with their naked eyes due to light pollution. That genuinely shocked me but not half as much as this statement from the same report did:
“That association does not prove that artificial light causes the problem. On the other hand, controlled laboratory studies do show that exposure to light during the night can disrupt circadian and neuroendocrine physiology, thereby accelerating tumor growth.” (my emphasis)
It makes you think doesn’t it?