Avoiding dangers of using light at night is focus of new Light and Health Foundation.

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The "Light and Health Foundation" has been formed to support research and foster education about the danger of using ordinary light at night when the body should be making melatonin. This hormone promotes sleep and is a powerful cancer fighter. Light bulbs and glasses that block the damaging blue light offer a solution to the problem.

The founding of the "Light and Health Foundation" was announced today by the Board of Directors. Purpose of the non-profit Foundation is to foster research and education about how light affects human health. The impetus for forming the foundation stems from the recent discoveries that using ordinary light at night can lead to serious illness. Ways to avoid this problem by minor changes in life style have been invented by physicists working at the Lighting Innovations Institute at John Carroll University (JCU).

The mechanism by which light affects health involves the sleep hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland under the control of the circadian (biological) clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus at the base of the brain. The pineal gland can only produce melatonin when the eyes are in darkness. A discovery in 2001 found that this is not exactly true; only certain wavelengths in the blue part of the spectrum can shut down the pineal gland. The newly discovered sensors in the retina are different from the rods and cones responsible for vision. Nerves from these sensors go to the suprachiasmatic nucleus rather than to the visual cortex. It is just the blue rays in ordinary light that cause suppression of melatonin.

Capitalizing on these discoveries, the JCU scientists developed a line of products that block the offending blue rays. These products include light bulbs, eyeglasses and filters for TV and computer screens that prevent blue light from entering the eye and causing shut down of the pineal gland. A spin-off company makes these products available on a web site http://www.sleepglasses.com.

Naturally produced melatonin is extremely important for human health. There are melatonin receptors located throughout the body. They let the body know whether it is day or night, summer or winter, by when melatonin arrives and for how long melatonin is present. Melatonin is the messenger hormone that caries the information from the circadian clock to the entire body. The release of other hormones is triggered by melatonin. Light during the time when melatonin should naturally be present can upset this delicate balance. In addition, melatonin also helps to keep the clock setting correct by a feed-back mechanism that is only partially understood.

Controlling light to prevent melatonin shut-down is important for new mothers getting up during the night to care for their babies. Repeatedly cutting off melatonin can upset the circadian rhythm. If this happens repeatedly it can lead to post partum depression. For ordinary people using glasses that block blue light for a couple of hours before bedtime allow melatonin to begin flowing. By bedtime a goodly supply is present. People with long histories of insomnia report falling asleep quickly and sleeping soundly. Because melatonin can flow for only 10 hours or so, people who suffer from seasonally affective disorder (SAD) can avoid having melatonin present in the morning when it makes them sleepy and depressed. They can do this by starting the flow earlier in the evening by wearing the glasses. They sleep better and wake up refreshed and ready for the new day. This method is safer than the light treatment frequently recommended that may damage the retina.

The bonus to avoiding blue light in the evening is that it maximizes the time that melatonin is present, an advantage we lost when electric lights were invented. Melatonin is a powerful cancer fighter. It fights cancer in at least three ways, as an antioxidant, by its ability to blunt the cancer causing nature of estrogen and by interfering with the metabolism of the food that cancer cells thrive on. Using the glasses in the evening may reduce cancer rates to the low levels enjoyed in societies without electric lights.

Fostering research in these areas and educating people about the danger of using light at night are the primary goals of the new Light and Health Foundation. The Board of Directors includes Dr. Edward Carome, President, Vilnis Kubulins, Secretary/Treasurer, John Ettorre, Dr. Mark Lynn, Dr. Martin Alpert, Terry McGowan, and Dr. Richard L. Hansler, Executive Director.


Richard L. Hansler Ph.D.

Executive Director

Light and Health Foundation

28120 Belcourt Rd.

Pepper Pike, OH 44124

216 397 1657


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