DJ Marcussen, Writer Of All Things Light

Posts tagged ‘circadian rhythm’

Clocking The Light


Try this: Some night, after most people have retired for the evening, pull all the shades in your house. Turn off all the lights. Shut down all your electronics and cover the glow from your clock. Wait a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the abrupt change (if necessary) and then look around and see how much light remains in your house. Unless you live in a remote area, I wager you’ll be surprised.

I knew my neighbor across the street kept their front porch light on at night, so I expected my front room to be bathed in bright shadows. What I didn’t expect to find was an intrusion of light from every window in my house, shades down or not. I lifted the blinds and peeked out. Neighbors on all four sides had some form of outside lighting, as did homes down the block. My whole neighborhood was lit up like a giant incandescent bulb and the lights from my small Midwestern town brightened the lower portion of sky.

Somehow, this realization had escaped me for all the sixteen years I had lived here. I was just living the status quo, like everyone else, too wrapped up in my to-do list to notice. Heck, I was probably even awake during most of those hours, burning the midnight electricity.

Now, a recent study released from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas has published their finding on a certain immune cell which is affected by daily cycles of light and dark. They hypothesize that being exposed to artificial light during normally dark hours may be linked to immune system disorders and inflammation.

This is hardly news. Disease’s are a result of injury, contagion, or immune dysfunction (such as inflammation) and I’ve seen many such studies of the effects of artificial light on our health, going back decades. A large number of those have been governmental studies, by the NIH. This is old news that few people take seriously, I suspect because (like most scientific studies) they always end with the researchers saying some variation of “such and such cautions that results are inconclusive at this time and requires further study”, or “these findings suggest further study is needed.”

Well, of course it does. Funding must continue, you know. That’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Nonetheless, there have certainly been times scientists have stuck their necks out and made decisive statements that later proved to be false, so their reticence is certainly warranted. Wouldn’t want my career resting on that banana peel!

After a certain point, however, when there’s enough studies pointing in the same direction… it’s time to stop tap dancing and change your shoes!

That’s how it is with light. Every cell in our bodies has a little clock inside. So far, there are several identified genes regulating that clock, one little protein coding gene even aptly named “CLOCK”. For the sake of brevity, what it boils down to is, our cells are programmed to detect light and it’s corresponding dark. CORRESPONDING DARK. This is the basis of our circadian rhythm. Every cell in our body includes light receptors, regulating all our life functions… hormones, proteins, electrical and chemical impulses…. this is real physical stuff, not theory. Every living thing on the planet revolves around the rotation of the earth to the sun. Mating signals, food availability, the not-so-simple act of when a flower blooms, absolutely everything in our world moves according to the cycle of light and dark. We are no exception. Why should the researchers be surprised our immune systems do as well?

Well, first of all, who says they are. The question is, are you?

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