Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Darkness on the edge of town

17 October 2017

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Sometimes it’s remarkable how blogs shape. Within a couple of days, I noticed several interesting articles on the lack of darkness, the abundance of artificial light, and its impact on the brain (sleeping disorders) and the body (obesity). These topics also relate to the recent Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine for the research into the biological clock of plants, animals, and humans.

On 12 April 2017, NASA scientists released “new global maps of Earth at night, providing the clearest yet composite view of the patterns of human settlement across our planet” (NASA).

The impact of urbanisation (living in cities) and their abundance of artificial light at night is clearly visible. The term “Dark Continent” for Africa, gets a new meaning when looking at NASA’s picture to the right.

Kenneth Wright, Professor in Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado (Boulder), used the darkness at night for an experiment. The results: “Filling the day with natural light and the night with true darkness for as little as a weekend can have a profound impact on our circadian rhythm, which may help us fall asleep earlier and potentially deliver other health benefits.” 

These other health benefits have been described by dr. Rosa van den Berg of the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in her 2017 dissertation: Long-term exposure to light during the night causes irrevocable weight gains due to a disturbance of our biological clock. Previous American research had already suggested a link between artificial light and obesity. (LUMC-2017, Telegraaf-2017, Healthline-2015, Environmental Health Perspectives-2010).

The 2017 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “discovered that the gene encodes a protein known as PER that builds up in the cell during the night before degrading over the course of the day, serving as a type of clock. The circadian rhythm can affect behavior, hormone levels, sleep patterns, body temperature, and metabolism” (Futurism, Guardian, Twitter).

I have little doubt that the relationship between artificial light & sound, biological clock, electronic gadgets (eg, iPads, iPhones), obesity, radio frequency radiation, and sleeping disorders will be a source for many new articles and studies. 

A few days ago, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found that “living near a forest seems to have a positive effect on the stress-processing brain areas. Researchers found that city dwellers living close to a forest were more likely to have a healthy brain structure than those with no access to nature near their home.” (Medical Xpress, MPG). How many cues do we need?

Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) by Bruce Springsteen
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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