With summer heat here and the bright sun making its presence very much known, it was only appropriate to share some of the virtues of sunlight in this column recently. Interestingly, did you know that just as the sun brings health benefits to us, so does its flip side—darkness?
Most health-conscious folks are familiar with melatonin—a needed hormone that helps to control the wake-sleep cycles that are regulated by your brain. Some people’s wake-sleep cycle, also called circadian rhythm, is faulty leading to sleep problems, fatigue, or depression. Adding melatonin to your health regime can assist in restoring a natural rhythm that promotes deep and restful sleep. Those of us who have not dealt with this health issue may take for granted the crucial role that melatonin plays in our overall well-being. Some recent studies indicate that we are just beginning to learn how important melatonin, and the natural condition that produces it—darkness—really is to our health.
Research now shows the human body only produces melatonin when it is truly dark. Truly dark being a darkened room without the intrusion of a nightlight, clock light, television, or computer screen. The artificial light that so frequently surrounds us can prevent a good night’s sleep by suppressing melatonin and the neurons that bring on sleep. Conversely our canned lighting also activates those neurons and hormones that bring on wakefulness. Watching TV, texting on the cell phone, cruising Facebook and other computer activities at night, are just a few of the many sources of artificial light that triggers your ‘day time’ hormones while shutting off your ‘night time’ supply. One source states that the over activity of the day time hormones depletes our immune systems natural safeguards, making us susceptible to illness, or as one claim asserts, even cancer. Compelling evidence suggests that disruption of the circadian rhythm in graveyard shift workers causes a higher incident of breast and prostate cancer. http://photobiology.info/Roberts-CR.
Besides the unseen but crucial patterns of the circadian rhythm, our night time slumber is important because, well, people just need sleep. An article in www.nature.com by Charles A. Czeisler, director of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston cites that “between 50 million to 70 million people in the United States suffer adverse health and safety consequences from sleep disorders and sleep deficiency, including greater risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and stroke. Children become hyperactive rather than sleepy when they don’t get enough sleep…so sleep deficiency may be mistaken for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some 40% of people in the United States report that their sleep is insufficient…and the death toll from driving while tired is second only to that caused by drunk driving.”
The great health news about darkness is that it doesn’t cost you anything, it’s painless, available to everyone, and in most areas of the world you can count on it happening about every 12 to 16 hours or so. Perhaps the hardest part about taking advantage of this naturally occurring healing mechanism is simply turning off our electricity-dependent lifestyles long enough to slip slowly into that restful, deep, dark sleep. Aaaah.
And after you have had that sound, peaceful, and refreshing night’s slumber, you are invited to start your day at the Sedona Community Center enjoying a Silver Sneakers Exercise Class, Chair Yoga, Medical Qi-Gong, Belly Button Healing, Life after Loss Grief Support Group, or A Course in Miracles. The Sedona Community Center has a variety of activities for you to enjoy, and did you know also serves a delicious community lunch Monday through Friday? The lunch is designed around the Older American Act’s meal program for people 60 and above, but all age groups are welcome. The under 60 crowd is encouraged to join us to connect with your older neighbors who dine with us regularly. If you enjoy meeting people, learning about their fascinating lives, and making new friends over an appetizing meal, the Center is the place for you. There is a suggested contribution of $6 for people under 60 and $5 for people 60 and above. We ask diners to call us in advance for reservations at 928.282.2834.