chap. 3 HOW TO AVOID

From left to right: Dr. Richard Hansler, Mr. Vilnis Kubulins and Dr. Edward Carome.

From left to right: Dr. Richard Hansler, Mr. Vilnis Kubulins and Dr. Edward Carome.

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FREE BOOK: Introduction AVOID ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE by Richard L. Hansler, PhD and Shannon Saadey scroll down to read


CHAPTER 3

How to Avoid the Damaging Effects of

Exposing the Eyes to Light at Night

 

It has been known for many years that exposing the eyes to ordinary white light suppresses the production of melatonin. Most people who knew about it felt there was nothing to do about it, so why worry, even if it were bad for you. People were not going to give up using light in the evening or during the night.

It was the discovery in 2001 that it is mostly the blue rays in ordinary white light that cause melatonin suppression that changed all that. When I learned this, I was very excited. Now we had a chance to get rid of the damaging effect of the millions of light bulbs I had helped develop at GE Lighting for more than forty years. I had a chance to deal with the guilt I felt for all the damage they had done to people’s health.

I had retired from General Electric in 1996 and moved to John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, where I began studying the health effects of light. I became most alarmed when I learned (PMID11604480) that nurses who had worked night shifts for many years had double the incidence of breast cancer as nurses who had not worked night shifts. This was consistent with an earlier study (PMID2054403) that found totally blind women had half the incidence of breast cancer as women with normal vision. In both cases melatonin was the link. Blind women had maximum melatonin because they did not lose theirs to light at night, while night shift nurses had less melatonin because of exposure to light at night.

When we learned it was mainly blue light that was at fault, my team of physicists (Dr. Edward Carome and Vilnis Kubulins and I) went to work to develop light bulbs that did not make blue light and eyeglasses that block blue light. We had a number of failures initially in which the coating we put on the bulb blocked blue light when new, but gradually became more transparent, probably from running at too high a temperature. We finally succeeded in getting some reliable products and opened a website in July of 2005 where we made these products available to the public.

In addition to making LowBlue light bulbs, we determined, early on, that it really didn’t matter where you blocked the blue rays, whether it was where they came out of the bulb or in front of the eyes. We began looking for eyeglasses that blocked only the blue rays, since we didn’t want to prevent people from carrying on their normal evening activities such as working on a computer, watching TV, or reading. We determined we needed to provide two types of glasses, one we called “fitover” glasses that were large enough to be worn on top of reading glasses and those we called “nonfitover” for those not requiring reading glasses. We quickly found people want to look good when wearing them, so we searched to find manufacturers who would provide fashion frames that were then equipped with the orange lenses required to block the blue rays.

Thousands of people have bought our glasses with a guarantee of money back if they did not improve their sleep. Based on the small number who find they do not help and return the glasses, we estimate they help more than 90% of those who try them. This is a much higher number than that for sleeping pills. Unlike sleeping pills, whose effectiveness wears off after a time, there is no such effect with maximizing natural melatonin. Using glasses that block blue light (from any source, natural or artificial) in the evening or using light bulbs that don’t make blue light restores the conditions we experienced as human beings when we evolved. We evolved near the equator, where there are 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness year round. Blocking blue light makes your body act as if in darkness. We sometimes call it virtual darkness.

Since the time we started our website, mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones have become common. Their screens provide a lot of blue light. People take these devices to bed with them, sometimes keep using them until very late, and sometimes look at them during the night. This can raise havoc with their sleep. Two members of our team, Daniel Carome and Vilnis Kubulins, developed a line of flexible, thin, vinyl filters that block blue light. They can be placed on the screens without interfering with the touch screen requirements. They adhere tightly to the smooth surface without any need for an adhesive. If they get dirty they can be restored to new condition with soap and water. Other filters for notebooks and laptop computers have been developed that use a heavier rigid plastic.

As a person with a pension from GE Lighting, I was concerned that the company was continuing to make what I considered to be an unsafe product. I kept urging my contacts at GE to provide light sources without blue light for use in the evening. I’m not sure if it was my urging or if it was the arrival of the “Goodnight” bulb from Lighting Sciences that convinced them to develop a pair of light bulbs they are calling “Align AM” and “Align PM.” The first has extra blue light to reset the internal clock in the morning and suppress any remaining melatonin, and the second has reduced blue light. They made the PM version less likely to reduce melatonin production in the evening by reducing both the intensity and the fraction of blue light. In tests with consumer groups, they found that completely removing the blue, that is, making it an orange light, would not be well accepted by customers. This has not been our experience with our orange bulbs. People love the peaceful color that resembles candlelight. Our customers want light free of the blue rays, but it must be bright enough that they can carry on their normal evening activities, such as reading.

It would have been nice if 10 years ago we had recruited 1,000 old people, randomized them into two groups, and started an experiment. One group would wear orange glasses every evening for three hours before bedtime, and the other group would wear colorless glasses for the same time. Today we might be able to report the results of tests of memory in the two groups. Unfortunately such a simple test is not possible. To do the simplest experiments on humans in the United States, even just filling out a medical questionnaire, one has to have the plan approved by an internal review board (IRB), and the participants have to sign an informed consent form. It seems like a good idea, but the IRB has become a major impediment to finding simple answers to simple questions.

For now we must be content to give the evidence that (1) maximizing melatonin appears to reduce the risk for MCI, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, (2) exposure to light in the evening suppresses melatonin, (3) wearing orange glasses in the evening restores the flow of melatonin, and therefore, QED, wearing orange glasses in the evening may reduce the risk of MCI, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Perhaps clinical trials of the glasses will be done someday. I hope so, but it is not likely during my or your lifetime. Fortunately the reader is not constrained by the need for clinical trials. Most reasonable people will accept logic as sufficient for action. Without action, knowledge has little value.

Because the same wearing of the orange glasses will enhance sleep and reduce the risk of many other diseases and conditions, it seems like it might be worth the bother. And it that’s too hard, how hard is changing to a different color light bulb?

If you are still not convinced to switch to LowBlue light bulbs or orange glasses, perhaps this will convince you.

Lighting Science Group (OTCQB:LSCG), one of the world’s top developers of LED lighting solutions, announced today that it would begin putting labels on light bulbs alerting consumers to the potential link between health and lighting products—specifically highlighting how exposure to electric lights prior to bedtime may cause sleep disruption and other effects.

The new initiative is receiving broad support from the scientific and medical communities. Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, MD, applauded the effort, saying: “Providing helpful information to the public is important and necessary to protect and enhance the health of our citizens. Many studies have found that lighting has a significant biological effect—impacting sleep, alertness, and many other physiological functions.” A 2014 research report released by Harvard Medical School concluded “the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.”

“The effect of light on human health and wellness is meaningful and well documented,” said Fred Maxik, founder and chief technology officer of Lighting Science. “We decided it was time to be proactive and raise awareness of those effects. This warning actually belongs on all light bulbs produced worldwide, and we’d hope that other lighting developers and manufacturers will join us in adding similar labels to their products.”

“This is an issue that needs and deserves much greater attention,” said Dr. Michael Breus, one of the nation’s leading authorities on clinical sleep disorders and who is also known as “the Sleep Doctor.”

“Light affects our biology, our performance, and our psychology. Like any powerful medicine, we need to use caution, education, and experience in choosing what type of light is right for different situations and when is the best time to use it.”

Lighting Science has always placed a strong emphasis on science and technology-based lighting solutions. The company initially garnered attention through its partnership with NASA, designing lights to improve the alertness and sleep patterns of astronauts on the International Space Station. “Lighting Science Group views our role in much broader terms than simply a traditional lighting company,” said chairman Craig Cogut. “Our focus is the impact of lighting on health, and we are using new scientific findings and technological advances as the basis for product development.” Lighting Science’s Rhythm Series leverages the company’s focus on sleep improvement with biologically oriented products such as the Sleepy Baby and Good Night lights. The company’s scope of products has expanded in recent years to include the Avenue Series, which focuses on outdoor lights for communities and roadways; the Marquee Series, filament bulbs inspired by vintage designs; and a variety of other products that seek to address issues in the realms of agriculture, wildlife protection, and energy efficiency. “It’s a revolutionary time for Lighting Science,” said CEO Ed Bednarcik. “We want to lead the way in helping to inform customers, as well as providing solutions for utilizing light more effectively and safely.” The first new labels will begin appearing on packages in specific channels later this summer (2015), with a full rollout planned in the following months. For more information on the biological effects of light, please, please visit http://www.healthimpactoflight.com/.


FREE BOOK: Introduction AVOID ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE by Richard L. Hansler, PhD and Shannon Saadey scroll up to read



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