Health Effects of Artificial Light 2


Hormones.  Not many people think about them but they play an integral role in Human health.  Humans have hormones that respond to environment, diet, exercise and a less known factor: LIGHT.  

Light has a strong influence on circadian rhythms.  Light affects important neurotransmitters in our brain like dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin strongly affect moods, emotions and sleep.  Disruption of our natural circadian rhythms can very easily lead to mood and sleep disorders.   In our fast paced, high technology world, we are being constantly stimulated by artificial light and during hours where there should naturally be darkness.  Our modern lifestyle may allow us to “get more done” but it comes at a negative cost to our circadian rhythms and to our overall health. 

When we stay up late with the lights on or watching TV, playing on computers, ipads or cell phones, we stimulate pathways in the brain that correspond to fight or flight.  This causes a constant release of the stress hormone cortisol.  Cortisol is notorious for causing many health problems such as insomnia (leading to daytime fatigue), anxiety, depression, belly fat accumulation, low thyroid, immune depletion and even cancer .  Even learning and memory is impaired with high cortisol levels.  Insulin levels that control blood sugar are also affected by improper light exposure and high cortisol levels .  Negative insulin levels cause uncontrollable hunger (especially for sugar and carbohydrates) and often lead to metabolic diseases such as Diabetes and heart disease.  Furthermore, metabolism in itself will become slowed when circadian rhythms are disrupted.  So it’s pretty clear that if you want to lose fat, you MUST pay more attention to your light exposure. 

Melatonin is another hormone controlled by light .  Melatonin regulates our days and nights, helps us sleep and is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-aging hormone.  When its natural production is disrupted, our immunity is weakened and sleep gets impaired. Lack of sleep is of course responsible for many other health issues and diseases.  If you aren’t sleeping long and deep enough, you aren’t repairing which leaves you vulnerable to disease.  Melatonin also affects almost every other important hormone like adrenal, thyroid and sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone).  Simply taking melatonin may help some people for awhile but it is not the best thing since it is an artificial way of getting it.  You want to raise melatonin (and all other vital hormones) naturally on your own and avoid taking concentrated supplemental hormones.   

Even short exposures to light at the wrong time can be seriously detrimental to your health.  Flicking on the bathroom switch to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night for only a few minutes can substantially disrupt your circadian rhythm and hormones.   

The body repairs itself the best between the hours of 11pm and 2am.  Your adrenal glands and liver detoxify and repair at this time.  So if you are burning the candle at both ends, you are missing out on these key restorative hours! 

Lastly, exposure to incandescent and fluorescent lighting is not natural for humans.  Humans need real sunlight! Real sunlight provides the best form of Vitamin D which is essential for immunity, disease prevention, and emotional health.  Getting adequate sunlight exposure throughout the day can help normalize your circadian rhythms and improve your health on many levels. 

How to optimize light exposure:

As soon as you wake, turn on lights and open blinds.

Try to exercise earlier in the day, especially in winter, when you can get a dose of sunlight.  

Eat lunch outside or by a window 

Avoid sunglasses when possible 

Try to get 10-20min per day of unprotected sun exposure 

Keep lights low or off later at night

Don’t turn on bathroom light in the middle of the night.  Have a low wattage or red nightlight instead

Do not have phones or iPads or computers or TVs in bedroom

Try to avoid watching TV or being on computer at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Sleep in total darkness. Use blackout blinds in all bedrooms or use an eye mask.

Go to sleep as soon as possible when it gets dark.  

Don’t have digital alarm clocks close to bed or facing bed.  Try a natural “sun” alarm clock instead.  Wakes you up gradually and gently without over stimulating you.

If you are experiencing extreme seasonal depression (winter), invest in a light box which has the appropriate full spectrum bulbs to simulate natural sunlight. 


Here’s a great, simple recipe that satisfies your cravings for wraps or sandwiches without the gluten and carbs!

Coconut Flour Tortillas

1 tablespoon coconut flour

1/16 teaspoon baking powder

2 egg whites (or, 3 tablespoons egg whites)

2 tablespoons water or coconut milk or hemp milk

Coconut oil (extra virgin, cold pressed)

Mix the coconut flour and baking powder with the water (or milk) and egg whites. Whisk or blend until all lumps disappear (mix, and then wait a couple of minutes and mix again).

Pour batter in center of pan, grease with coconut oil. Tilt the pan around to spread the batter into a large circle, almost covering the entire bottom of the pan.

Be very careful with this part: wait until the edges are brown on the side of the tortilla, or carefully circle spatula around the bottom of tortilla until safe to flip. 

Once safe, flip the tortilla and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side.

Fill with berries and nuts, meat and veggies or an enchilada filling - anything you like!


 Meridian Health Centre  |   780 428 8897   |  10990 - 124 St.  Edmonton, Alberta T5M 0H8