Repairing Sleep with Lights
Imagine our delight when, within days of starting to use our BEACON40 lights, my wife and I were getting the best sleep we have had in decades. Since I had become a mentor for BRIGHT through the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator, my wife thought we should try the lights. She bought BEACON40 Surround 2-lamp set, putting one on either side of our television, so we could use them as we watched the nightly news.
We wondered if the flickering would distract us, but I turned the intensity down and we don’t even notice them. The transformation for us was remarkable. I had not slept eight hours straight since college.
The quality and quantity of sleep matter.
In one of many studies linking sleep deprivation to heart disease, researchers from the University of Chicago measured sleep and sleep fragmentation in their study participants. After five years, there was a 200 to 300% increase in the risk of coronary artery calcifications in those sleeping 5 or fewer hours. The mechanism is hypothesized to be an increase in sympathetic nervous system tone with decreased sleep accelerating the clogging of the arteries of the heart.
Similarly, sleep deprivation has been shown to impact cancers of the bowel, prostate, and breast. Researchers in Pittsburgh demonstrated individuals averaging less than 6 hours per night had an almost 50% increase in risk of colorectal adenomas. Short sleep duration has also been associated with fatal prostate cancers. Researchers using data from the UK Biobank
found consistent evidence for a protective effect of sleep duration on breast cancer risk.
Also of interest, sleep restriction reduces muscle cells’ ability to take in glucose by 50%. Sleep restriction limits the amount of insulin released by the pancreas in response to eating and reduces the sensitivity of cells to insulin. Insulin normally signals cells to take up glucose. This is equivalent to a prediabetic state. Prolonged sleep deprivation can contribute to the development of diabetes.
“Sleep reduces the risk of all-cause mortality.” – Matthew Walker, Professor at the University of California Berkeley, Founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science, and author of “Why We Sleep”.
Sleep is divided into two distinct states: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non–rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep is further classified into four stages: stage 1 (light sleep), stage 2 (consolidated sleep), and stages 3 and 4 (deep, or slow-wave sleep). During normal sleep, these stages tend to occur in succession; from wakefulness into stage 1 sleep, followed by stage 2, 3, and 4, and then REM sleep. Each cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes.
We go through several cycles each night. In the early cycles, deep NREM sleep predominates. During this time the glial cells or support cell in the brain shrink allowing a greater flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the brain. This process washes away the waste products of the brain’s wakeful activities. Without this cleaning process, toxins left in the brain can cause damage over time. During the later sleep cycles, REM sleep predominates. It is during this REM phase that memories are laid down. Without adequate sleep, we interfere with memory acquisition.
An awareness of the real health risks associated with poor sleep should lead all of us to adopt habits that help improve sleep hygiene. My wife and I experienced the benefits of this simple flickering light on our sleep patterns. It has had a wonderful impact on our sleep and our lives.