Darkness is a necessity

Carrie Bennett

When was the last time you slept in a pitch-black room?

What we think of as a dark room is actually bright compared to the level of darkness the body desires. Here is a test:

If you can see your hand 12 inches in front of your face in your bed at night, then your room is too bright.
Do this 10 minutes after settling into your bed to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness in the room.

Why do we need it this dark? Melatonin production increases greatly in the pineal gland and gut via a pathway that converts serotonin to melatonin after 4 hours of complete darkness. Artificial light delays/suppresses this pathway. Candlelight suppresses melatonin production by approximately 2%. Artificial lights such as LEDs suppress it by approximately 80%.

Why is this a big deal? Melatonin is more than a hormone that helps us fall asleep. I’d argue that helping us get to sleep is its least important role and it works with other chemicals that also need darkness at night for optimum effect.

One such chemical is prolactin whose release should also happen after 4 hours of darkness. This pathway is also suppressed by artificial light at night. Prolactin signals growth hormone release (GH). GH decreases body fat, increases lean muscle and optimizes protein synthesis when synced with melatonin in mitochondria leading to optimized autophagy and apoptosis. Apoptosis is one of the major ways the body destroys cancer cells. Research consistently links low melatonin levels to elevated cancer risks, especially linking artificial light at night to increased breast and prostate cancers.

Melatonin is also a potent antioxidant, which means sleep is a time when we are meant to lower inflammation levels that are naturally elevated during the day due to electron leakage at cytochrome 1 and 3 as a result of natural metabolism (in the electron-transport-chain of our mitochondria).

So in essence, we age during the day and we are meant to “reverse age” during sleep. A chronic lack of darkness is destroying our anti-aging capabilities, increasing rates of cancer, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction and harming our deep restorative sleep.

Darkness is a necessity.

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