The clocks have gone back and winter has begun, and one in fifteen people will be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Though the early darkness and gloomy mornings can be depressing, there are actually several health benefits to the increased darkness exposure.
Unnatural reliance on artificial lighting both at home and in the office can have negative effects on a person’s health, both physically and mentally. Sleep consultant Dr. Neil Stanley has found that all living things have an instinctive need for daily darkness.
Melatonin and Cancer
In fact, scientists have actually found connections between night-time light and breast cancer. Melatonin, the “darkness hormone,” is one of our body’s natural defenses against cancer. Produced by the pineal gland, melatonin is released in response to darkness. A powerful antioxidant, melatonin is believed to suppress the growth of several types of cancerous cells, including breast and prostate cancer. Not only does lighting reduce melatonin production, it also weakens the immune system and disturbs the biological clock, messing with the body’s most healthy and natural balance. Of course, the reduced sun exposure also lessens the risk of skin cancer.
While the dark can be depressing, it is important to utilize it and restore strength for next summer. Instead of turning all the lights up and forcing your body to stay up as late as it does during the summer months, why not take advantage of the early nights and catch up on the hundreds of hours of sleep you’re probably missing. And if you’re inclined to leave some lights on while you relax, you may want to consider dim ones, or even candles, for a healthy and relaxing evening.